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780.92 3667-2 61-11887 


Impressions that remained 




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P 10 1983 



One of the truly great works of contemporary biography. Mr. 
Newman has been engaged on it for the past fifteen years. Four 

BEETHOVEN. His Spiritual Development 


This is probably the greatest study of the later Beethoven ever 
written. Of it Clifton Fadiman says: "It is the most interesting 
book on music that I have^ever read." 

GIUSEPPE VERDI. His Life and Works 


A definitive life brilliantly written by a man who has made the 
study of Verdi and Italian opera his life work. 

MOZART. The Man and His Works 

by W. J. TURNER 

In this fine critical biography Mozart is reviewed and re-created 
by a trained musician who is also a creative artist in words. 


published in New York by Alfred A. Knopf 

Impressions That Remained 

The Author, agd afam jfk>e 




Introduction by ERNEST NEWMAN 


1 946 

FIRST PUBLISHED 1919 by Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd 

INTRODUCTION COPYRIGHT 1946 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any 
form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a 
reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce not more than 
three illustrations in a review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper. 
Manufactured in the United States of America. Published simul- 
taneously in Canada by The Ryerson Press. 

This is a Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A, Knopf, Inc. 


M E P 


1890 1916 

1 find Lady Ponsonby, the wise judge> the firm Liberal, more and more de- 
lightful; at last one feels she is getting old she is eighty-two. She is like a 
fine flame kindled by sea-logs and sandlewood good to watch and good to 
warm the mind at, and the heart too. 



Ethel Smyth's Impressions That Remained when it 
was first published in England I expressed the opinion that this was 
one of the half-dozen best autobiographies in the English language. 
This estimate has been confirmed by a recent re-reading of it for 
the present American edition. But there are several other books 
by the same author equally worth reading, for Ethel Smyth was one 
of the most remarkable women of her epoch; and I am glad that a 
request from Mr. Alfred Knopf to furnish an Introduction to this 
new edition affords me an opportunity of telling the American musi- 
cal public more about her than is contained in her first book. 

The autobiography may be trusted to tell its own story so far 
as it goes. But it was issued in 1919, and a great deal happened be- 
tween then and the author's death in 1944. The memoirs, apart 
from a brief reference in the Epilogue to friends or incidents of the 
years immediately following, carry us only as far as 1892. Writing 
as she did in 1918 her scope was necessarily restricted here and there 
by the fact that several people who had played a considerable part in 
her life-story were still alive. One of these was the Ex-Empress Eug6- 
nie of France, with whom she was on terms of close friendship for 
more than a quarter of a century from 1890 onwards, the Empress's 
English estate at Farnborough Hill being close to the Smyth house 
at Frimley and to later residences of Ethel. It would obviously have 
been impossible for the author to write about the Empress at any 
length or with any freedom while she was still alive. She died, at the 
age of ninety-five in July 1920 a year or so after the publication 
of the Impressions; and in her second book, Streaks of Life (1921 ), 
Ethel Smyth painted a portrait of her that is not only fascinating in 
itself but of value to students and historians of the Second Empire. 

The passing of the Empress from the scene also placed the author 


at liberty to indulge in some amusing reminiscences of the old 
Queen Victoria, with whom she had come into contact through 
Eug6nie: they include the rich story, told with rich humour, of the 
dreadful breach of etiquette of which Ethel was innocently guilty 
at an after-dinner reception at Balmoral. At one end of the large 
room was a fireplace, and in front of this a hearthrug on which, in 
remote dignity, the Queen was standing with the Empress. "Lead- 
ing up to the two august ladies," says Ethel, 

"was an avenue composed of royal personages ranged, as I afterwards 
found out, in order of precedence, the highest in rank being closest to 
the hearthrug which avenue, broadening towards its base, gradually 
became mere ladies and gentlemen of the Court, and finally petered out 
in a group of Maids of Honour huddled ingloriously in the bay-window." 

What Court procedure prescribed was that Ethel should remain 
among the huddle until she caught the royal eye, curtsey, and await 
a command to come forward. "Will it be believed," she chuckles, 

"that what I did was to advance unconcernedly up the avenue, with a 
polite intention to say 'How do you do?' to the Queen?" 

The error was pardonable, for at that time she knew nothing of the 
quite necessary etiquette of Courts, and the Empress had obtained 
a royal command to her to join the party at Balmoral in order that 
the Queen might become interested in her big work of that period, 
the Mass in D, and perhaps use her influence to bring it to perform- 
ance in London. Ethel's description of the scene that followed is 
typical of her gay humour in all the awkward situations, and they 
were many, of her life: 

"If a young dog strays up the aisle during church no one says anything, 
no one does anything, but none the less he soon becomes aware that 
something is wrong. Even so, as the distance between myself and the 
hearthrug diminished did I become aware that something was very- 
wrong indeed; my cheerful confidence waned and my step faltered. 
I saw the Queen slightly turn her head, look at me for a second as if I 
were some strange insect, and resume her conversation with the Em- 
press. If I had been a Brobdingnagian spider as big as a Newfoundland 
she would not have acted differently. Someone would remove the crea- 
ture; that was enough. I did not catch the Empress's eye, but I now 
know that since she could not shriek *Mon Dieu, n'avancez pas!' she 



must have wished the earth would open and swallow me up. At this 
moment dear, human Princess Christian, who had come more in con- 
tact with low life than the Queen, stepped forward and shook hands 
with me and somehow or other, I know not how, I backed away into 
the obscurity from which I should never have emerged." 

Obviously reminiscences of this kind could not be printed with pro- 
priety while the Empress was alive, and so, though many of them 
fall within the period covered by Impressions That "Remained, 
they had to be reserved for a later book. So again with some rich 
stories about the last of the German Kaisers, whom Ethel saw at 
close quarters in Berlin before the war of 1914. 

The Impressions of 1919 and the Streaks of Life of 1921 were 
followed in 1927 by A Three-Legged Tour in Greece, a delightful 
record of a tour, packed with physical hardships, through unfre- 
quented Greece by the indomitable woman of sixty-seven in com- 
pany with a great-niece of hers. The adventure is told with the in- 
finite zest that had alone made it possible. One episode is Ethel 
Smyth in a nutshell. The pair had set out one day from Salonica to 
climb Mount Olympus. Taking what seemed to them the natural 
way to their goal they found themselves in what turned out to be 
the extensive grounds of a big sanatorium for the mentally afflicted. 
Between them and Olympus ran a seven-foot stone wall. Kindly 
nurses and attendants assured them that there was no way through 
they would have to go back and try some other and more round- 
about route. But Ethel had observed a few gaps in the wall; and over 
these she scrambled, dragging her young companion after her, and 
leaving behind them a legend of two mad Englishwomen that is 
probably told with bated breath in Salonica to this day. 

Her solution of that difficulty was typical of her: she always knew 
exactly where she wanted to go, and went straight for her goal re- 
gardless of obstacles and dangers. In a letter of 1902 she speaks of 
"the grim unchangeableness of people like me, who, at the age of 
twelve, found out what my destiny had to be, made tracks for it, and 
have never swerved from it since." In the days when she was trying 
to float her music in Germany more than one opera director and 


conductor was made to feel the torrential force of this "pocket 
Niagara/' as one member of her family circle had described her as 
a child of fourteen. Always, as at Olympus, she would get where she 
wanted to be or perish in the attempt. At one time she had set her 
heart on making her friend Lady Ponsonby read Anatole France. 
When long persuasion failed she threatened to present Lady Pon- 
sonby with a parrot trained to cackle "Anatole France" ad infinitum. 
"She's quite capable of it, you know/' said the Empress Eugenie, 
who knew her thoroughly; and her friend surrendered at discretion. 
"You passionate, stormy-hearted child" was the description of her 
in 1894 by the man who knew her best, the only man she ever loved. 
She tells her life-story with such detachment and so much humour, 
so much comprehension of the souls of others as well as of her 
own, that it is only by building up a number of scattered hints from 
many sources into a connected picture that we can realise how 
greatly she must have suffered at times. The world in general, that 
knew her only as a passionate fighter for her own and other causes, 
had no conception of the depth of tenderness and the capacity for 
pain in her; it saw her, particularly in the final thirty years or so of 
her life, only as a woman with an obsessing grievance the frustra- 
tion of woman in a man-made world. She never flinched from com- 
bat, never minced her words. Her immense physical vitality and the 
exuberance of her temperament must in her younger years have 
made her company sometimes trying even for the people who loved 
her most.* She had been inured from childhood to strenuous out- 
door sports. She was used to breaking in fractious horses and sub- 
duing big dogs. (For the smaller specimens of the dog tribe she 
never had much liking.) She became a hardy rider to hounds, a 
mountaineer with nerves of steel, and quite late in life an ardent 
golfer. Every company she came into in her young days she went 
through like a hurricane. Even one of her most devoted friends, 

* In a novel that made a sensation fifty years ago Dodo, by E. F. Benson 
(a son of the Archbishop of Canterbury of that time, and a close friend of Ethel 
Smyth) - she figures as the tempestuous composer Edith Staines. All the lines 
of the portrait are of course exaggerated for humorous purposes, but it is suf- 
ficiently true to the original for us to recognise the storm-and-stress Ethel Smyth 
of the early years. She accepted the caricature with her usual healthy humour, 
and was gratified to hear the author himself describe "Edith Staines" as "the 
one decent character in the book." 



Julia Brewster the sister of "Lisl" von Herzogenberg confessed 
ruefully to her one day in 1884, "One must be very -well to enjoy 
you." On one occasion, after what Ethel calls "some extra-fierce 
argument" after dinner with one of the most dearly loved of her 
later friends, Lady Ponsonby, she left in a fury the house in which 
she had been invited to stay the night and bicycled through dark- 
ness and rain and storm to her own home, seven miles away. "When 
I got back/' Lady Ponsonby's daughter wrote next day to a common 
friend, "Ethel had been gone half an hour, and the house was still 

She made more than houses rock with the thunder of her polemic 
during the last quarter-century of her life. But underneath all the 
combativeness was a rare capacity for feeling and inspiring friend- 
ship and a passion for love and understanding on the part of others. 
Take, as a side-light on this aspect of her, her story of her conversa- 
tion with the Prior of a lonely Italian monastery in 1884, when she 
was no more than twenty-six. She poured out her heart to him about 
many things that troubled her, about "the pull of life and the con- 
stant longing for calm, the fascination of difficulties and barriers, the 
need of human contact and affection, the love of one's own ways/' 
and many other things. The old man's advice was, "Figlia mia, 
figlia mia, turn your back on life! it is the only way." But to turn 
her back on life was the one thing she could never do. She loved life 
and work and combat too much for that: she was driven on remorse- 
lessly by her daemon. 


About 1910 some conversations with Hermann Bahr and Lady 
Constance Lytton aroused her interest in the most troublous politi- 
cal problem of the England of that time the cause of woman's 
suffrage; soon afterwards she met the leader of that cause, Mrs. 
Emmeline Pankhurst, for whom she conceived an ardent affection, 
and soon she herself figured as one of the doughtiest fighters for 
the equal rights of women with men. She resolved to turn her back 
on music for two years and throw all her energies into the cause. 
They were two years of torment and anger and suffering such as she 
had never known before and was never to know again. Upon the 
ghastly record of that struggle none of us who witnessed it and took 


part in it can ever look back without horror and disgust. There were 
faults, of course, on both sides. Some of the violences of the women 
could not escape condemnation at the bar of reason; but their 
argument and it was unanswerable was that the appeal to 
justice having failed, only unscrupulous and unrelenting violence 
would avail against the stupidity, the duplicity and the cowardice 
of the politicians of the time. The last desperate card the women 
played was the hunger strike in prison. This led, by a sort of tragic 
necessity, to forcible feeding and the horrible "Cat and Mouse" 
routine, as it came to be called; afraid to face the public conse- 
quences of the death in gaol of some of these women, passionate for 
martyrdom for the cause, the authorities released them in time to 
save their lives, re-arrested them when they had regained a little 
health, and then brought them back to prison again to serve some 
more of their sentence, and so on in a sort of devils' dance <i deux 
of violence and cruelty-born-of-fear that sickened the public con- 
science. Ethel Smyth, as might have been expected, fought with the 
gloves off. She was sent to Holloway prison for two months; there, 
untameable as ever, she conducted the March of the Women 
the rousing fighting song she had written for the Women's Suffrage 
movement, which she was to use again later in the overture to her 
opera The Boatswain's Mate with a toothbrush as baton from 
the window of her cell on the third floor while her fellow-prisoners 
were exercising in the yard. 

At the end of the two years she had promised to devote to the 
cause she went to Egypt (in 1913), partly for the restoration of her 
broken health, partly to write The Boatswain's Mate. The story of 
that expedition rich in adventures, like every other episode in 
her life she told racily in 1935 in her book Beecham and Pharaoh, 
the first half of which consists of a lively study of the art and the 
personality of Sir Thomas Beecham. Previously to that had come 
A Final Burning of Boats (1928) a collection of essays and remi- 
niscencesand Female Pipings in Eden (1933), telling, among 
other things, the story of her struggles to get her works produced. 
Her autobiography proper was continued, from the point at which 
she had stopped in Impressions That Remained, in her last two 
books, As Time Went On . . . (1936) and What Happened Next 
(1940): this latter shewed her with her mental powers and her 


robust sense of humour still undiminished at the age of eighty-one, 
in spite of the facts that her income, never a large one, had been 
hard hit by the failure of some South American investments, and 
that for some years past music had been an enjoyment barred to her 
first of all by distorted hearing, then by deafness. She died on the 
9th May 1944, at the age of eighty-six. She had been made an 
honorary Doctor of Music by Durham University in 1910 and by 
Oxford University in 1926; while in 1922 she received a sort of con- 
solation prize for her disappointments over her music in the form of 
a D.B.E. (Dame of the British Empire the female equivalent 
of a knighthood). 

Her quality as a composer was high, certainly the highest ever 
achieved by a woman; but this is not the place for an essay on her 
music. The biographical dictionaries will provide the reader with 
the long list of her works in various genres; here we are concerned 
with them only so far as they bear on Impressions That Remained 
and the later sections of her autobiography. That she failed to win 
adequate public recognition as a composer is indisputable; and 
though her justifiable anger at the difficulties she had constantly to 
overcome made her go too far in attributing them mostly to sex- 
antagonism, there cannot be the least doubt that in her own coun- 
try her way was sometimes made harder than it should have been 
by the mere fact that she was a woman. In Germany, where her 
career began, her work, on its merits alone, had earned the sincere 
respect of some of the finest German musicians of the period, in- 
cluding Hermann Levi, Nikisch, George Henschel, Mottl and 
Bruno Walter. Brahms, compelled to admire some of her earliest 
work, but reluctant to believe that a woman could have produced 
it, assumed that it had been written by Henschel. So far as the prac- 
tical day-by-day conditions of the opera house machine permitted, 
several of the leading German conductors were perfectly willing to 
produce Ethel Smyth's operas. Her Fantasio had been given at 
Weimar in 1898 and at Karlsruhe in 1901, Der Wald in Dresden 
in 1901 and Berlin in 1902, and The Wreckers (under its German 
title of Strandrecht) at Leipzig and Prague in 1906. 

In England she found matters more difficult. Her fine Mass in D, 



which Levi rightly declared to be "the strongest and most original 
work that had come out of England since Purcell's time/' was given 
in London by the Royal Choral Society in 1893, as a result of pres- 
sure put upon the Society by its musical President, the Duke of 
Edinburgh (a son of Queen Victoria), who in turn had had his 
elbow jogged by the Queen and the Empress Eugenie. It received 
one performance, and then was not heard anywhere until thirty-one 
years later, when it was given again in Birmingham. Why that long 
neglect of a work that still evokes the respect of musicians on the 
rare occasions when they are allowed to hear it? It is not as if it had 
been unable to stand up against the competition of other English 
works in 1893: Ethel Smyth herself asked in 1928, as she might 
well do, "Will anyone point to the masterpieces of the 'nineties 
that naturally put its poor nose out of joint? Where are they today?" 
No answer is possible except that the work was persistently cold- 
shouldered year after year in her own country for no other reason 
than that the people in musical power at the time and later 
did not know what to make of a "female composer" who wrote, not 
music of "feminine charm," but music of as strong intellectual fibre 
as that of any man. Whether there was anything so definite and 
conscious as "sex-antagonism" or not, there was certainly in the air 
a lamentable amount of sex-blindness; had her Mass been brought 
out as the work of John or Henry Smyth it would have had a dif- 
ferent reception from the Press and met with a different fate. 

In her own country, of course, she was hampered, so far as her 
operas were concerned, by the lack of any organisation for that 
form of art such as Germany, with its scores of opera houses, has 
always enjoyed. Our only real opera house was Covent Garden, 
run by a private Syndicate which made no secret of the fact that, 
as it could not afford idealistic experiments, it could in general give 
only works that had proved a success on the Continent. Yet some- 
how or other Ethel Smyth managed to win a hearing for Der Wald 
at Covent Garden in 1902 and for The Wreckers at His Majesty's 
Theatre in 1909 and at Covent Garden in the following year. In 
1911 she gave a concert of her own works at Queen's Hall. Then 



followed, as we have seen, two years of withdrawal from the musi- 
cal scene, and what she called her Flight into Egypt. She returned 
to England via Germany in May 1914 with the ball apparently at 
her feet at last. In her pocket were contracts for what would have 
been an ideal production of The Wreckers at Munich ( under Bruno 
Walter), and for The Boatswain's Mate at Frankfurt-am-Main. 
Then, when her long fight seemed to have been won, the Fates 
dealt her a knock-out blow. The war broke out in August: the Ger- 
man contracts were of course not carried out, and after the war the 
whole face of things musical was changed. She had lost her footing in 
Germany and for reasons of international politics could never re- 
gain it. At home The Boatswain's Mate was produced at the Shaftes- 
bury Theatre in London in 1916. This was followed by a delicate 
musical fantasy, Fete Gdante, at Birmingham in 1923 (later at 
Covent Garden), and by a second comic opera, Entente Cordiale, 
at the Royal College of Music in 1925 (at Bristol in the following 
year) . By now she was fairly well established in her own country, 
but of her two best works those by which she herself declared she 
must stand or fall, the Mass and The Wreckers the new genera- 
tion still knew nothing. In 1931 she produced in Edinburgh The 
Prison, a setting of some extracts from a spiritual-metaphysical con- 
versation piece by H. B. Brewster. It was well received there and 
elsewhere in the provinces, but London's cooler reception of it, as 
she herself admitted, almost broke her heart. 

For The Prison meant more to her inmost self than any other 
work of hers. This brings us to the subject of Henry Brewster. 

When Ethel Smyth went to Leipzig in 1877, at the age of nine- 
teen, she studied, after an unsatisfactory spell at the Conserva- 
torium, with Heinrich von Herzogenberg, who was by common con- 
sent the most fully equipped German contrapuntist of his day; his 
lovely and gifted wife Elisabeth ("LisF) has left us, in her cor- 
respondence with Brahms, some of the acutest musical criticism 
of the nineteenth century. Ethel soon become f enfant de la maison; 
the love of Lisl and herself was one of the most beautiful of its kind 
in history, and the shattering of the union in 1885 was a blow from 


which Ethel never really recovered. It had come about in this way. 
Lisl's sister Julia had married the eleven years younger Henry B. 
Brewster, the son of an American father and an English mother, 
who had been brought up in France and was now living in Italy. 
It had been understood from the first between him and Julia that 
if ever a new passion should come into the life of either of them 
they were to part. In 1882 Ethel Smyth made their acquaintance in 
Florence; and it was not long before Henry fell in love with the sin- 
gularly attractive and brilliant girl. Julia, as might have been ex- 
pected, was unable to bring herself to carry out her agreement with 
Henry when the testing time he had foreseen arrived, and a vast 
amount of mischief was made by her mother, who had conceived a 
malignant hatred for Ethel. Lisl, hurt and uncomprehending, broke 
off the friendship with her, and, to Ethel's enduring sorrow, died, 
in 1892, without a word of remembrance. Brewster and Ethel be- 
haved honourably towards Julia: for five years they had no com- 
munication with each other, until they met again in London in 
1890. After Julia's death he again and again pressed her to marry 
him, but she could never decide to take that decisive step: to the 
end of his days he died in 1908 he was the centre of her intel- 
lectual and emotional life, but she seems to have recognised that 
marriage and her career as a musician would be incompatible. 
For the full story the reader must turn to the pages of As Time 
Went On ... and What Happened Next. 

Henry Brewster was one of the rarest spirits the earth can ever 
have produced, a man of fine character, a subtle thinker, a con- 
summate stylist and an incomparable letter-writer; * and his love 
and admiration for Ethel Smyth over a period of a quarter of a 
century is the most convincing testimony imaginable to her own 
exceptional qualities of mind and soul. The lukewarm reception 

* His literary output was small The Theories of Anarchy and Law (1887), 
The Prison (1891), The Statuette and the Background (1896), and UAme 
Pdienne (1902). He wrote the original text (in French) of The Wreckers (Les 
Naufrageurs) ; this and another drama, Buondelmonte, were published by his 
son Christopher after his father's death. Ethel Smyth brought out a new edition 
of The Prison at the time 1 when she was writing her own work with that title; 
and she herself desired that Brewster's letters to her and others should some 
day be collected and published. She gives copious extracts from them in some 
of her books. They are certainly unique: Henry James rightly called him "the 
last of the Great Epistolarists." 



of The Prison was a double blow to her; she felt that it struck not 
only at herself as a composer but at the man whose love and talk 
had inspired it. For the completion of the story of the pair the reader 
must be referred to her later books: meanwhile here is Impressions 
That Remained to give the American reader an idea of the quality 
of the personality and the mental power of one of the most note- 
worthy women of our time. 



WHEN it was suggested that a Preface to this new Edition of Im- 
pressions That Remained and Streaks of Life * would not be amiss, 
no proposal could have seemed more bewildering to the author. 
How does one set about giving a new send-off to an old book? 

Then came the reflection that every unknown writer who sud- 
denly puts forth into print will often be asked if this was really a 
maiden effort? Or, in cases like mine, the question may run: "What 
made you think of writing your memoirs 7 '? And probably nine times 
out of ten such enquiries are only a matter of polite ritual. Yet some 
of these kind questioners may really wish for an answer; if so, this is 
obviously the moment to say that up to Christmas 1917 I had never 
attempted anything more ambitious than articles on the Suffrage, 
and further that the inception of Impressions was due to a not 
infrequent combination of ill-luck and happy chance. 

. I was in Paris, blending war-work with daily visits to a celebrated 
aurist, and at that time had reason to believe that to listen to music, 
or think in terms of music, would always be as intolerable to me as 
it was then. Twice a week I dined alone with a very dear friend, 
Count Joachim Clary, one of les enfants de la maison at the Em- 
press Eugenie's English home. I had first known Clary as a clever, 
good-looking, active, rather spoilt youth; now, though still a young 
man, he was a cripple, scarcely able to move hand or foot, his limbs 
twisted and gnarled with arthritis, in constant pain day and night, 
and totally blind. Yet his originality, his culture, his unconquer- 
able sense of humour and, above all, his superb courage, made our 
friendship one of the assets of my life. 

One evening, when I had been recounting some absurd childish 

* Streaks of Life, another volume of memoirs by Dame Ethel Smyth, was 
published by Mr. Knopf in 1922. 


adventures, he said: 'It's a queer thing; we know each other so well, 
yet of your life before we met I know nothing/' And he went on to 
suggest that these early experiences, so typically English and already 
so remote, would be well worth writing down, and exactly the sort 
of thing to read to an invalid after dinner. 

I at once set to work and wrote a few chapters, which Clary ap- 
proved. Whereupon I showed them to another friend of mine, 
Madame Bulteau, who, under the pseudonym "Jacque Vontade" 
had written a remarkable book called UAme des Anglais. We all 
called her "Toche," and I never knew what Christian name this 
symbol stood for; but to me and many, many others she was what 
some old Greek has called "the theatre of my actions." 

Some day no doubt a literary monument will be raised to the 
memory of this wonderful woman. In touch with some of the most 
brilliant spirits of France and other countries, surrounded by a 
faithful band of privileged intimates, she was, I truly believe, one of 
the most passionately adored people that can ever have existed on 
this planet the life, the hope, the support, the inspiration of 
everyone, male or female, who came into her orbit. I know of two 
English friends of hers besides myself, who, when the time comes, 
will have a hand in the upraising of that monument, Edmund 
Gosse and Maurice Baring, the latter of whom wrote to me last 
autumn when she died: "Have you read the O. Henry book, and 
do you remember what he said about his fits of depression, ho,w 
there were days on which he 'wouldn't bet on himself? What she 
did was to make you bet on yourself/' Nothing could more perfectly 
describe the chief action of that noble, generous spirit; and I ask 
myself what greater service one mortal can render another. 

Madame Bulteau's opinion of my early chapters coinciding with 
Clary's, I submitted them to Maurice, who had come from the front 
to spend a few terribly busy days in Paris, and his verdict was the 
same as the others. Soon afterwards I went back to England and 
was setting to work in real earnest when news came of Clary's 
wholly unexpected death. Just before I left he had remarked one 
day that his life might well drag an for years, and I had replied 
that in the somewhat similar case of my brother Johnny the same 
thing had been said, yet the end came suddenly and painlessly. (I 
repeated this conversation to the Empress, whose views on how to 



talk to sick people are described in Streaks of Life, and her caustic 
comment was: "Alors dest comme cela que vous consolez vos 
amis!".) One could only be thankful, of course, that Clary's suffer- 
ings were over, yet I often wish he had lived to see the book finished. 

One more thing I should like to say. In writing what I have 
hitherto written and future efforts, if any, will be in the same 
case it has been my ardent hope and belief that many readers 
would say to themselves: "I am not an artist, nor, so far as I am 
;aware, have I ever attempted to hit any difficult mark; yet this 
woman's experiences are curiously like my own!" 

If the issue of a new edition may be taken as proof that this was 
no vain hope, nothing could make me happier as a musician. For 
I hold that the permanent quality of an artist's work depends in 
some mystical manner on the genuineness and multiplicity of his 
points of contact with life. More than this is needful, of course; 
the not wholly negligible matter of talent, for instance; also the 
gift of self-expression and adequate technical equipment. But the 
indispensable foundation in my opinion at least is a very close 
touch with reality; a touch, moreover, that has to be constantly 
tested and readjusted as the years roll on. 

Finally, to conclude in the old French manner with a moralite, 
it seems to me that if one can but grow wisdom and determination 
enough to keep up this difficult process to the very end, aided and 
abetted by the one sense that grows stronger with advancing years, 
the sense of humour, then, I venture to think, no one need be afraid 
of growing old. 





CHAPTER I. (. . . to 1867) Origins. Professor Smyth; 3 
his works and his friends. My grandfather; his speeches 
to the Yeomanry during the Riots. My sisters and eldest 

CHAPTER II. (. . . to 1867) Sidcup Place described. 11 
Childish memories and adventures. Crimes and punish- 
ments. Amusements. My "passions" 

CHAPTER III. (. . . to 1867) Relations. Hugo J. f the 21 
family artist. The redoubtable Colonel O'H. Old Indians. 
Household Hindustani. Bonnemaman; the "legend"; her 
second husband; her difficulties; her men friends. The 
Agra Bank fails 

CHAPTER IV. (My Father) My father's Indian begin- 30 
nings; his popularity; his county work; his politics; his 
dislike of the artistic temperament; his reading of the Les- 
sons; his characteristics and verbal slips; his leniency and 
rigidity; his death. A valedictory notice 

CHAPTER V. (My Mother) My mother's education in 37 
France; she marries, and goes to India; her foreign ways 
and unconventionally; her appearance; her love of soci- 
ety; her gifts for languages and music; her difficult charac- 
ter and lovableness; her great sorrow; is bored by having 
visitors to stay; the monotony of her life; her ill health 
and death 

CHAPTER VI. (A Retrospect) We leave Sidcup for 47 
Frimhurst. Our social framework. Neighbourliness, with 



limitations. Parties and balls. Relations with the village. 
Outdoor relief. Moral conditions and drunkenness in 

CHAPTER VII. (1867-72) My early musical tenden- 52 
cies. Arrival at Frimhurst. Our new home described. 
Birth of Bob. Johnny goes to Westminster. Dr. Charles 
Scott (Uncle Charles) and his wife (Aunt Susan). A 
tragedy on Fox Hills 

CHAPTER VIII. (1867-72) Our governesses. Miss 58 
Hammond's chignon. The Franco-Prussian War. Cata- 
logues of "passions" and "things to be avoided!' Educa- 
tion. Frimley Green and the fair. Skating and donkeys. A 
churchyard episode. A fight in the "three-decker! 7 Mary 
and I perform at village entertainments. A religious im- 
pression. We perform at Aldershot* My father's speech. 
The Conjuror 

CHAPTER IX. (1867-72) Alice's proposal scene. Our 67 
boy admirers. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith! 9 Musical tortures. 
An imaginary tragedy. Lying. I determine to study music 
at Leipzig. My father retires and buys Frimhurst. "Lark- 
ing" the horses. Farmyard episodes. My father as country 

CHAPTER X. (1872 and 1873) Our diaries. Mary and I 77 
go to school. Our life there. I hear Patti. Inward conflicts. 
Confirmation. A distressing conversion. Early "poems! 9 
The priest's love-affair and Mr. Longman 

CHAPTER XL (1873-75) The children and Miss Go- 89 
bell. Their theatricals. Queer neighbours. A dance at 
the Longmans'. The drain adventure. Colonel Mclvor 
and Madame de S. I leave school, learn Italian, and fail 
for the Cambridge Local Examination. Alice's and Mary's 
marriages. Johnny's death 


CHAPTER XII. (1875 and 1876) Music and religion. 96 
Social ambition phase. The Ewings. "Aunt Judy!' Mr. 
Ewing gives me harmony lessons. My father's aversion to 
him. The lessons are stopped. I visit the O'H's in Ireland. 
My engagement to Mr. Willie Wilde. I come out. Balls. 
A sentimental illusion 

CHAPTER XIII. (1876 and 1877) A Wagner concert. 106 
J break the filly. Country-house visiting. Schon Roth- 
raut. Reels and a hunt. Introduction to Madame Schu- 
mann. First acquaintance with Brahms's music. My 
Leipzig project announced. My father's fury. George Eliot 
at St. James's Hall Visit to two artists. Friends who 
backed me up. Militant methods at home. Capitulation 
of my father. Departure for Leipzig ^ 


(a) Letter from Mrs. Opie, March 1848 113 

(b) Letters from S.D., a schoolboy admirer, aged thirteen 113 

(c) Letters from my mother, 1873-75 11 7 

(d) Letters from Alexander Ewing, Esq., 1876-77 121 


CHAPTER XIV. (Summer 1877) Germany in 1877. Ar- 134 
rival at Leipzig. Description of the town. My landlady, 
Frau Professor Heimbach. My fellow lodger. Strange cro- 
quet. A fortnight in Thuringia. George Henschel and oth- 
ers. Musical encouragement. Part-singing in the woods 

CHAPTER XV. (Autumn 1877) Old Leipzig. I go dis- 139 
guised to a concert. The Rontgen family. A blend of art 
and courtship; anecdote about Kreisler, as contrast 

CHAPTER XVI. (Winter 1877-78) The Conservato- 145 
num. My masters. The Gewctndhaus concerts. The old 



concert hall. Acoustics. Chamber music. B. turns over for 
Frau Schumann. The libel suit and an admirer's chivalry. 
His subsequent career 

CHAPTER XVII. (Winter 1877-78) The Brockhaus 151 
family. New Years Eve at the Rontgens*. The drama. 
The Geistinger episode. The Tauchnitz family. End of 
the Geistinger episode 

CHAPTER XVIII. (Early in 1878) Brahms conducts 158 
his D Major Symphony. My introduction to him; his 
irony. A critic's remark on the symphony. I hear about 
the Herzogenbergs. I move to Salomonstrasse 19. Life 
there described. I plunge into the World 

CHAPTER XIX. (Early in 1878) Leipzig society; the 162 
Gewandhaus Gesellschaft, the professorial set, and the 
artist -world. Particularism. Dialect. Frau Livia Frege. 
Frau Lili Wach (daughter of Mendelssohn) and her 
husband. Orthodox piety in Germany 

CHAPTER XX. (Early in 1878) Elisabeth von Herzo- 169 
genberg ("LfeZ"); her beauty; her talents; her musical 
genius; other characteristics. Her husband and his com- 
positions. The Limburger family. Two Leipzig charac- 
ters, Frau von B. and Frau Dr. E. Anecdotes about the 

CHAPTER XXI. ( Spring 1 878 ) Herzogenberg becomes 1 77 
my master. I join the Bach Verein. An anti-English sta- 
tioner. I stay at "the Berg" with Frau Doctor Brockhaus. 
I fall ill and am nursed by Lisl. Beginning of our friend- 
ship. A glance into the future 


(a) Letters from myself to my mother and other mem- 183 

bers of the family, 1877-78 

(b) Letters from Elisabeth von Herzogenberg (Lisl), 219 

May 27 to June 9, 1878 



CHAPTER XXII. (Summer 1878) Return to England. 224 
All exertion forbidden. A sentimental aftermath. I -work 
badly. We perform the Liebeslieder Walzer. Home fi- 
nances. Return to Leipzig via Holland 

CHAPTER XXIII. (Autumn and Winter 1878) Visit 228 
to Utrecht; music there. The Zuider Zee. Arrival at Leip- 
zig. My Variations approved. The Merseburger house- 
hold (Salomonstrasse 19). I become "the Child' at the 
Herzogenbergs' . Lisl's character and charm. Frau Schu- 
mann's Jubilee and a fantastic hunt 

CHAPTER XXIV. (Brahms) Brahms conducts his Vio- 233 
lin Concerto; his personality; his common sense in the 
Lenbach dispute; his views on women; his worship of Lisl; 
Herzogenb erg's music bores him; his relations with Frau 
Schumann; his manners with women; his horror of being 
lionized; his taste in jokes; his views on Wagner. Brahms 
at the piano; his modesty; his kindness to me, contempt 
for women composers notwithstanding. Anecdote about 
Levi. My Brahms-poem and its results. He sends a wreath 
to Wagner's funeral. His illness and death 

CHAPTER XXV. ( Spring 1 879 ) Grieg. The Wachs and 241 
Herzogenbergs become friends. Routs. The opera. Defects 
and advantages of my training. Rural expeditions of the 
Bach Verein. A Passion performance in the Thomas 
Kirche. Lists parents appear; they both hate me, especially 
her mother, Frau von Stockhausen 

CHAPTER XXVL (Summer 1879 ^ Summer 1880) 247 
A vague marriage scheme. Pan-Germanism. Speeches and 
a disaster. Leipzig fairs. Christmas at Berlin with the Fied- 
lers. Their personalities. A New Year's festivity at the 
Joachims'. Rubinstein and the young lady. Spitta. Chry- 
sander on old English music. Fiedler's collection of pic- 
tures. First impressions of Manet's art. A victim of the 
Kaiser. Two English friends (one "musical") come to 



Leipzig. A String Quartet of mine is played at the Wach's. 
Crostewitz and its inhabitants. A cropper on the race 
course. "Miss Hopp-in-die Welt! 7 1 go home via Homburg 
and Ragatz. Financial crisis at home 

CHAPTER XXVII. (Summer 1880 to Summer 1881) 256 
"Chopsticks:' Adela Wodehouse. "Papa's Surprise" A 
misread symptom. Friendships between women. Rhoda 
Garrett. Return to Leipzig. The Reuss-Kostritz family and 
Prince Heinrich XXIV. German fury about the South 
African War. I ride a steeplechase. Home via some old 
North German towns. A "novelty" in rose trees. The Gar- 
retts and their friends at Rustington. A strange love epi- 
sode. "Aunt Judy" as chaperon. Miss H.'s dramatic arrival 
at Frimhurst. "Aunt Judy's" fatal mistake 


(a) Letters from Elisabeth von Herzogenberg (Lisl), 269 

June 12, 1878 to September 22, 1880 

(b) Letters from myself to my mother and father ( 1878- 286 


(c) Letters from Juliana Horatid Ewing (Aunt Judy) 289 

to my mother, 1879-85 

(d) Letter from Edward Grieg, 1879 301 

CHAPTER XXVIII, (Autumn 1881 to Autumn 1882) 302 
Return to Leipzig. I distress Lisl. Visit of Captain H. 
Foster. Flight to England for Christmas. Decision to go 
to Italy in the autumn. Music at Sydenham, Brahms's 
compliment. The Garretts at Frimhurst. I go to Switzer- 
land via Rouen. A first climb -with Wach. Disastrous first 
view of Venice with the Herzogenbergs 

CHAPTER XXIX. (Autumn 1882 to Christmas 1882) 308 
Arrival at Florence. Amey's and my establishment. The 
Hildebrand family; his art and character; his musical gifts 
and literary limitations. The Brewsters; their unusual 
views and ways of life; first impressions of Harry Brew- 



ster (H. B.); Julia Brewster's appearance; their criticism 
of Lisl. H. B. goes to Algeria. Rhoda' $ death 

CHAPTER XXX. (Christmas 1882 to Summer 1883) 316 
Amey and I cook our Christmas dinner. Grief for Rhoda. 
I become crippled. Prince Reuss appears. We make music. 
H. B. returns. The Brewsters 7 chateau is burned down. I 
meet the Herzogenbergs at Berchtesgaden and make 
friends with Frau Schumann. Anecdotes about her 

CHAPTER XXXL (Summer 1883 to December 1883) 323 
Aibling; its primitive charm. I am cured. A glimpse of 
old Greece. Journey home via Rothenburg an der Taube. 
Rustington -without Rhoda. Financial situation at Frim- 
hurst. A typical carriage accident. First meeting -with the 
Empress Eugenie; her beauty. Muirhouse. Mr. and Mrs. 
Davidson. Scotch vowels. LisVs irritation at my love of 
sport. I begin to distrust Joachim 

CHAPTER XXXIL (December 1883 to Spring 1884) 331 
A visit to Frau Schumann. Severe illness at Munich. My 
String Quintet is performed at Leipzig. An English 
widow. My Florentine landlady. Wanderings in Italy, 
Anecdotes about the Italians. An adventure by the Arno. 
Lisl jails ill. Salvini and H. B. The Fiedlers come to 
Florence. Professor Gregorovius, Hildebmnd takes a cast 
of my face 

CHAPTER XXXIII, (Spring 1884) An excursion in the 338 
Apennines. The Prior. Enter the Barone. Our expedition 
together and its musical -finale. Return to civilization. 
Astonishment of Lady Ribblesdale. Biography of the 

CHAPTER XXXIV. (Spring 1884 to Spring 1885) A 346 
contemporary description ofH.B. Frau von Stockhausen. 
A bogus mortal illness. Home via Berchtesgaden. Finan- 
cial situation again. I learn the organ. Sir Frederick Ouse- 



ley at BramshilL Back to Leipzig. Herzogenberg is offered 
a post at Berlin. Scene with a German General. My 
mother comes to Leipzig. Her German conversations. 
The great dinner party. I part from Lisl never to see 
her again 


(a) Letters from Elisabeth von Herzogenberg (Lisl) 353 

November 5, 1882 to October 5, 1884 

(b) Letters from my mother, November 1882 and April 362 


(c) Letter from Frau Livia Frege, February 1884 363 


CHAPTER XXXV. (A Retrospect of 1884-85 to Sum- 365 
mer 1885) The story of the Brewsters and myself in 
1884. Lisl's attitude during our winter at Leipzig, 1884- 
85. Our separation foreshadowed. Mischief-makers. The 
breach. I decide to stay in England for the present. Frau 
von Stockhausen's campaign. Lisl refuses to clear me. A 
reflection on cruel letters 

CHAPTER XXXVI. (Summer 1885 to Autumn 1886) 375 
Violet marries Dick Hippisley. My friendships with Edith 
Davidson and Mrs. Benson begin. Nina marries Herbert 
Hollings. Major Templer; his trial for treason, and col- 
lapse of the case. Walking-tour in Cornwall; a yachting , 
episode; a political meeting; tin mines; the Piper's Hole. 
A Wreckers decoration 

CHAPTER XXXVII. (Autumn 1886 to Autumn 1887) 3 8 4 
Return to Leipzig via Engelberg. Conrad Fiedler consti- 
tutes himself my champion. Excellent reception at Leip- 
zig. Lisl captivates Mary Fiedler in Berlin. Lisl's effective- 
ness in controversy. Flying visit to Frimhurst for marriage 



of Nelly to Hugh Eastwood. Marco; anecdotes about him. 
Kindness of Leipzig friends. Frau Livia Frege's dilemma. 
Marco in England. Bob and I explore the Wye. Climb in 
a tower. Mr. Lowell. Lisl's last letter. Hatred a sterile 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. (Autumn 1887 to Spring 1888) 394 
Bob accompanies me to Leipzig. Johanna Rontgen as 
teacher. "Verboten." Kreisler and the two Germans. Sara- 
sate on Carmen. Germans on Gounod's Faust. Irving' s 
production of Faust (the play}. My Violin Sonata is 
produced in Leipzig. A skating adventure. Joachims judg- 
ment of my music. The von Webers and Gustav Mahler. 
Anecdotes of Grieg. Tchaikovsky. Morell Mackenzie con- 
troversy. Wach's extraordinary outburst 


(a) Letter from Dr. Conrad Fiedler, January 1887 405 

(b) Letter from Joseph Joachim, Spring 1888 407 

(c) Letters from my mother, 1886-88 407 

CHAPTER XXXIX. (Summer 1888 to Summer 1889) 412 
I determine to winter in England. The genealogical study. 
Celibacy of the priesthood. Irish relations. Lili pleads for 
Lisl. An incident of Hevzogenberg's illness. Hunting in 
the Sologne. A "Hallali." A tailor's remark. Family gather- 
ing at Christmas. The gorilla. Muirhouse. Unbelief. Dr. 
MacGregor; his style as preacher; our discussions and a 

CHAPTER XL. (Summer 1889) The Benson family. 421 
Characterization of Mrs. Benson. Fred, Arthur, and Mag- 
gie Benson. My friendship with Nelly Benson begins. 
Hugh Benson. My dread of the Archbishop and its effects. ' 
The White Heather Cricket Club. A match at Lambeth. 
Home life incompatible "with work. My mother's depres- 
sion. Her bigness of soul. Financial crisis. The Paris Exhi- 
bition. Marco's excavations. The Roumanian band. An 
immemorial situation 



CHAPTER XLI. (Autumn and Winter 1889) Journey 432 
to Munich. Cosima Wagner. Visit to the Fiedlers. Mary 
condemns Lisl. I begin to hate Lisl. Munich described. 
Marco in the Isar. The witch. Religious discussions. A 
Lutheran protest in Rome. The mad King's castles. Levi 
tries over my Serenade and Overture. Financial worries at 
home. A living desk. The Trevelyans appear. The Missa 
Solemnis and Levi. Marco at rehearsal. Worishofen and 
the Kneipp Cure. Two deaths. Effect on the peasants 

CHAPTER XL 1 1. (Winter 1889 to Spring 1890) My 446 
friendship with Pauline Trevelyan. Portraits of her and her 
mother. Difficulties about lodgings. Letter to Nelly Ben- 
son. A crisis. The Imitation. A Christmas service. I return 
to England. Marco's dreadful journey. Bob goes to India. 
My Serenade is performed at the Crystal Palace. I meet 
H. B. again. Religious belief endures. Economy at home. 
Invention of ladies' bicycles; I buy one; slow subsidence of 
prejudice against them 

CHAPTER XL 1 1 1. (Spring and Summer 1890) Sir Ar- 459 
thur Sullivan. Differences between Mrs. Benson and my- 
self. Evangelicism. Admiration for Newman. Dean Lake 
and Uncle Charles Scott. The true origin of my Mus. Doc. 
A "pink" wedding. Pauline at Addington. My Anglican 
enthusiasm. The Assyrian Church. Trial of the Bishop of 
Lincoln. The Archbishop's antipathy grows; he and Mr. 
Spurgeon. Glimpse into the future. The Empress Eug&nie 
and her household. Injustices of history. Lord Rose- 
bery's tribute to H.I.M. 

CHAPTER XLIV. (Autumn 1890 to January 1891) 470 
Visit to the Trevelyans. A fantastic dream. A dull family 
of genius. Nelly Benson's death. My mother's unhappi- 
ness. Her visit to Lambeth. Mrs, Benson's resignation. 
Other orchestral works of mine are performed. I meet Lady 
Ponsonby. H. B. and I resume our friendship. His books? 
&c. Christmas and the Henschels. The story of Jim Ptft- 



tie. My mother's moral effort; she wishes to leave Frim- 
hurst; her illness and death; a personal incident connected 
with her last moment 

CHAPTER X L V . ( Epilogue ) My father's last years and 479 
death. Deaths of Pauline, Consul Limburger, and Frau 
Livia Frege. The Empress Eugenie at the Ried. Lili Wach 
visits Lambeth. Her death. Wach and the girls in London. 
Conrad Fiedler's death. The passing of Papa Rontgen. 
My angle towards Lisl since 1889. Frau von Stockhausen's 
illness and death. Lisl's death. Herzogenberg and I agree 
to meet; his death before that meeting comes off. Review 
of Lisl's action; my present view of it and inward reconcili- 
ation with her 


(a) Letter from Tchaikovsky, Spring 1889 489 

(b) Letters from my mother, 1889-90 489 

(c) Letters from Sir Arthur Sullivan, 1890-91 491 

(d) Letters from Frau Lili Wach, 1891-92 495 

(e) Letters from Henry Brewster (H. B.), 1891-92 503 

INDEX follows page 509 



The Author, aged about five FRONTISPIECE 

Major-General J. H. Smyth, C.B. 

(the Author's Father) FACING PAGE 22 

Mrs. J. H. Smyth (the Author's Mother) 38 
A Drive in the Donkey-cart; 

Sketch by the Rev. Hugo J. 54 

The Six Miss Smyths and "Bango" 70 

Juliana Horatia Ewing ("Aunt Judy") 102 

Lili Wach (nee Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) 166 

Elisabeth von Herzogenberg ("Lisl") 182 

The Author 246 

Rhoda Garrett and Her Little Sister 310 

Frau Schumann 326 

Baroness von Stockhausen 342 

Marco and the Author 390 
Drawing of the Author by John Sargent, R.A., 

and the Rev. Hugo J/s Recollection of 

that Portrait 422 

H.I.M. the Empress Eugenie 454 

Henry Brewster ( "H. B." ) 470 

Musical Quotations 

"The Diver" 65 

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" 7 

A Bird-call heard by the Author 181 

Fraulein Redeker's Compass 19 

"Chopsticks" and "Im Freien" 257 

The Groan in Brahms's Ballad "Eduard" 281 

Theme from a Brahms Symphony 362 

Beginning of Sullivan's "Prodigal Son" 494 


VJ'NCE, in a roomful of people, someone suddenly said: "I won- 
der what becomes of all the delightful and interesting children one 
has known/' Startled by this remark we began discussing it, and 
carne to the conclusion that nearly all children are interesting and 
delightful, just as every coin fresh from the Mint has a certain 
charm but unfortunately, as time goes on, the original design 
loses its sharpness. Then someone else went on to say that if faith- 
fully written, the memoirs of any child would be good reading. It 
was in this spirit that to while away a winter of forced inactivity I 
began to write mine, having no readers in view at the moment but 
one or two amiably inquisitive friends. 

Early memoirs are necessarily egoistic, for a child's recollections 
are strung together on the thread of its own little personality. Nor, 
among such petty joys and sorrows, triumphs and humiliations, can 
much picking and choosing be done. What you remember was evi- 
dently important in your own eyes and there is no other guide to 
follow. If anyone should deem the result in this case of general 
interest, it will be because, like the immortal "Diary of a Nobody, 
the daily life described in the first part of these chronicles might be 
that of any English family in analogous circumstances, and my own 
confessions the autobiography of any child. 

Once girlhood is past, the story perforce becomes less impersonal. 
But even here, seeing that the record ends when it became the 
question of a public musical career, maybe others who have felt the 
pull of what lies to right and left of the road they are trying to fol- 
low will find in my later adventures something akin to their own. 
Anyhow it is in that hope and belief that I have recounted them. 

One word more. Contemporary correspondence is often the most 
interesting part of a book such as this, yet to use it freely in the text 
breaks up the narrative. For this leason I have interpolated six ap- 
pendix sections, containing letters from or about persons concerned 
in the story. And it is certain that the large class of readers who are 
bored by other people's letters will welcome a method that simpli- 
fies wholesale skipping. 


Impressions That Remained 

Part I 


CHAPTER L ... to 1867 

A HE TITLE of this section of my memoirs, "The Smyth Family 
Robinson/ 7 is a nickname given by one of my five brothers-in-law 
to the family he allied himself with. Uncle Charles Scott expressed 
the same idea in other words when he declared the Irish strain in 
our blood was predominant; but we were only Irish of the Pale 
and our branch had been back in England for three generations. 
Originally of Heath Hall, Yorkshire, where the parent stock still 
survives, we went to Ireland in 1625, and did so well there as to 
absorb large parts of Meath, Westmeath, and Queen's County, 
habitually filling most of the bishoprics with ourselves and our 

At one time I was delighted to believe, as my father, who was 
vague on such matters, told us was the case, that our direct an- 
cestor was a certain Edward Smyth, Bishop of Down and Connor, 
who, in his sub-character of chaplain to William of Orange, drafted 
the laws concerning Irish Catholics. Later, being seized with a pas- 
sion for genealogy, and incidentally becoming acquainted with the 
nature of those laws, I was glad to find that instead of deriving from 
the person responsible, I should say, for half the religious troubles 
that have since convulsed Ireland, our progenitor was his younger 
brother, of whom nothing was to be learned except that his name 
was John. In straight line from this obscure Smyth, travelling always 
via younger sons, we arrive at my great-grandfather, who having 
been destined for the Army had the sense to emigrate to Liverpool 
and try his hand at banking. Reversing this idea, my grandfather, 

Impressions that Remained 

again younger son of a younger son, began life in the Light Cavalry, 
fought in the Peninsular War, and ended by carrying on the bank 
in Macclesfield. 

The only touch of drama mild drama that enlivens the fam- 
ily history is that during the invasion by Prince Charlie my great- 
grandparents pursued what seems to have been the usual course in 
those days under such circumstances, and retired with the rest of 
the country families to a spot unlikely to be visited by the soldiery, 
the Peak of Derby. Meanwhile their home, "The Fence," was oc- 
cupied by Charles Edward and his suite, who left behind them 
some curious glass hunting goblets, one beautifully engraven with 
the Prince's portrait, the Order of the Holy Ghost and the queue 
being executed with special care. My father maintained it was very 
wrong to call a lawful heir "the Pretender"; none the less he always 
styled this relic "the Pretender's glasses" as did his father and 
grandfather before him. 

In the course of my genealogical investigations the gratifying fact 
was established that our line of Smyths were admirable God-fearing 
people, for the most part with pronounced literary tastes; but 
among them all there is not one single outstanding personality, 
except perhaps my bachelor great-uncle William Smyth, Master of 
Peterhouse College, Cambridge. 

When he was a young man at the University his father's bank 
failed, as did many a bank during the French Revolution; finding 
himself bereft of everything save an "elegant scholarship," which 
someone seems to have brought to the notice of Mr. Sheridan, he 
became tutor to his son Tom. A memoir of Sheridan, printed pri- 
vately in his old age, is written with a discretion which, though one 
admires, one cannot help regretting, for life at Isleworth must have 
been a fantastic experience. To get a sight of the master of the 
house was evidently next door to impossible, so incalculable were 
his movements, so irregular his hours; and during his' prolonged ab- 
sences from home, in vain would the tutor write suggesting change 
of air or change of curriculum for the pupil in vain beg for funds 
to run the household, incidentally mentioning his own salary, for 
Sheridan had acquired the dun-haunted man's habit of never open- 
ing letters. Nor was it possible to follow him to London and force 
an interview, for, in perpetual terror lest some misfortune should 

The Smyth Family Robinson 

befall his idolized and totally neglected boy (who was not even 
allowed to skate for fear of drowning ), the orders were that un- 
der no circumstances whatever was the tutor to leave his charge 
for a moment. Thus the two unfortunates would find themselves 
stranded in some seaside lodging-house long after everyone else had 
left the place penniless, living on the precarious credit of the 
great man's name, yet not daring to go home without permission. 
In fact this little record of an inmate's experience in that household 
is just what you would expect; nevertheless the main note is min- 
gled admiration for the fallen genius, who had captured my great- 
uncle's imagination when an Eton boy, and distress at the ravages 
of his vices and weaknesses. One gathers there were occasional 
scenes between the two men, but never once, drunk or sober, did 
Sheridan fail to treat his subordinate as a gentleman and an equal; 
in fact nothing stands out more strongly in these hyper-delicate 
pages than the lovableness of their subject. 

"The Professor/' as he was called in the family, also published 
a book of Lectures on the French Revolution, which I have never 
read, and a volume of English Lyrics in mild amatory vein. Every- 
one in those days wrote verses; otherwise it is inexplicable that an 
intelligent man should have printed such rubbish and intelligent 
he really was. In an autobiographical note, far the most interesting 
though not the funniest part of the English Lyrics, he remarks 
that his father could repeat by heart almost any passage you chose 
to call for in "classics such as Swift, Churchill, Dryden, and Shake- 
spere," and that on one occasion, after reading Thomson's "Pale- 
mon and Lavinia" only once through, he repeated it without a 

My father used to tell an odd little story about his uncle and 
Jane Austen, who were close friends. It appears that the authoress, 
wishing to get at his real opinion of one of her novels, put on a 
friend to pump him, concealing herself meanwhile behind a cur- 
tain. The verdict was luckily all that could be desired till the Pro- 
fessor remarked he was not quite certain as to her orthodoxy, hav- 
ing detected slightly Unitarian leanings in her later works; upon 
which Jane Austen burst forth from her hiding-place, indignantly 
crying: "That's not true!" One may question whether any degree 
of intimacy justifies such a stratagem, but no doubt she knew her 


Impressions that Remained 

man; anyhow this curious sidelight on an elusive personality al- 
most atones for the English Lyrics. 

In another great friend of his, Amelia Opie, wife of the painter 
a literary celebrity in the style of her contemporaries Mrs. Rad- 
cliffe and Mrs. Barbauld I always took interest, because, after 
being for forty years the most inveterate woman of the world, she 
suddenly joined the Society of Friends and devoted herself to phi- 
lanthropy mitigated with travel. It appeared that her adoring but 
home-loving husband persuaded her to try authorship in order to 
wean her from society; the result was that she at once became fa- 
mous and went out more than ever. 

The Professor was our high-water mark in the way of distinction, 
and I have sometimes said to myself that though it must be pleasant 
to have brilliant ancestors, the possible legacy of an exhausted 
nervous system is perhaps not worth the glory of a flaming pedigree. 
In fact it is mainly to the consistent level of decent mediocrity in 
our own that I attribute the extraordinary health and high spirits 
of the branch I am concerned with in these pages. 

One day during the lifetime of my brother Johnny, who had a 
turn for mathematics, and whose memory was accurate, we chil- 
dren started trying to fix the date of our earliest recollections, but 
it was found impossible to decide exactly when the first event I re- 
call took place; namely, an attempt to jump out of the low pony- 
carriage as it was crawling up St. Mary Cray's Hill, which ended in 
my falling on my back in the road, having failed to observe that 
Johnny and the groom always jumped in the direction the carriage 
was moving in. Thus my conscious life began with the first of a 
long series of croppers not a bad beginning. 

We lived in those days at Sidcup, then quite a country place, 
selected by my father as not too far from Woolwich, where, on his 
return to England after the Indian Mutiny, he took up the com- 
mand of the Artillery Depot. The Indian forces to which he be- 
longed were then in course of fusion with the regular Army, and 
being very popular, and having served with distinction, he was con- 
sidered the right man for a task requiring both tact and common 
sense. I can see him now, starting for the daily ride to his office 
mounted on his eighteen-hand charger Paddy, who later filled the 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

parts of hunter, brougham horse, and coal-cart horse with good 
humour and propriety. I have even ridden him myself, and an old 
friend once told us his first sight of me was wrong end upwards, 
suspended by the foot on Paddy's off side with my long hair sweep- 
ing the grass, the saddle having slipped round in Bramshill Park. 
As a tiny child I firmly believed the horse-radish served with the 
Sunday joint was plucked from the white saddle-marks on Paddy's 
high withers, and for this reason had an aversion to horse-radish 
sauce years after I knew the truth about it. 

At the time of that leap from the pony-carriage the Sidcup house- 
hold consisted of my paternal grandparents, who came to live with 
us after the Mutiny, my parents, and five children four girls and 
a boy. As time went on, two more girls arrived on the scene, Bob, 
my youngest brother, being born the year after we left Sidcup; in 
fact we eventually blossomed into one of the large families that in 
those days were rather the rule than the exception. 

Looking at the portrait of what our friend George Henschel 
called my grandfather's "dear old port-wine face," one remembers 
the legend that his last action before he died was to stroke his 
stomach and remark with a chuckle: "To think of the hogsheads of 
port I have consoomed in my time!" He might well say so, for he 
lived to be ninety-six a splendid, intensely alive old man whom I 
should have worshipped in later years, whereas then, alasl I only 
felt a child's repulsion to extreme old age. He always wore a black 
velvet skull-cap which was associated in my mind with wizards, 
and I disliked having to kiss his scrubby apple-red old cheek, won- 
dering uneasily why there was always white powder on the lapels of 
his coat. Again, I detested a favourite joke of his, which was to say 
very slowly, when a certain dreaded hour struck: "Shadrach . . . 
Meschach . . . and ... To BED WE col" the last words with a 
sudden roar. But what chiefly roused my disapproval was his com- 
ment when Johnny, who had put something very hot into his 
mouth, instantly spat it out; "Well done, my boy," cried Grand- 
papa, "a fool would have swallowed itl" Being imbued with nursery 
notions of pretty behaviour, I was shocked at the coarseness of the 
males of the family. 

The other day, examining old'papers of his, I came across some 
cuttings from the Manchester Courier which throw, I think, a pic- 


Impressions that Remained 

turesque light on the past. After leaving the Army he had been 
given command of the Macelesfield Squadron of the Cheshire 
Yeomanry, a force much in request during the frequent riots, and 
with two of these incidents the extracts are concerned. Here is the 

Our squadron of yeomanry reached home on Thursday and formed 
in the Market Place where they were addressed by Captain Smyth; we 
give the speech as nearly as we could collect it. 

"Gentlemen - It is with the most heartfelt satisfaction that I ad- 
dress you on your return from performing as good and loyal subjects 
your duty to your King and country. Gentlemen, I am desired by my 
brother officers to convey to you their best thanks for the alacrity with 
which you mustered, and for your soldier-like conduct on this, as on 
all former occasions, when your country's weal has required your pro- 
tection. With their thanks I beg you will accept my own. But, gen- 
tlemen, I am instructed to convey thanks to you from a much higher 
authority, from that distinguished officer, Major Gen. Sir James 
Lyon, with whom I have had the honour of an interview, and who 
has personally expressed to me the high estimation in which he holds 
your valuable services. The General deeply regrets the necessity for 
calling you out at this inclement season of the year; but the readiness 
with which you obeyed the call tends only to prove, that neither the 
scorching sun of autumn, nor the chilling blasts of winter, can abate 
the ardour that glows in your manly bosoms. The General further in- 
formed me that the call for your services was not only necessary, but 
most urgent, for that intelligence of a most alarming nature had been 
received on oath from various quarters, and from sources the most re- 
spectable, all agreeing that a simultaneous rising was intended to take 
place on Sunday last from Glasgow to Stockport, and in Nottingham. 
Proud am I to say, that our town was not in the list of those enumer- 
ated. No, gentlemen, our town is a loyal town, and I trust it will 
never lose its fair fame by the base conduct of the few radical wretches 
whose dwelling is amongst us. Gentlemen, when I last had the pleas- 
ure of addressing you, I told you those radical reformers never durst, 
nor ever would, stand the charge of yeomanry, and I still feel per- 
suaded they never will. Of their diabolical intentions there can be 
no doubt, and they would ere this have been carried into execution,, 
had their proceedings not been closely watched. Gentlemen, I again 
thank you for your attention, and you can now return to your homes 
with the universal satisfaction of having done your duty, and I hope 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

you will be allowed to enjoy the festivities of the approaching season 
with peace and comfort. And ere you depart, I trust our worthy chap- 
lain who is on my left will give you his blessing." 

The next extract shows that my grandfather had underrated the 
power of the "radical wretches" to stir up strife: 

Prior to the dismissal of the squadron of horse they were addressed in 
an animated speech by one of their officers, Capt. Smyth, a gentleman 
who has seen much service in the field, and had a command at the storm- 
ing of Seringapatam. His observations, as nearly as we could collect, were 
these "Your conduct has, during the four days and nights elapsed in 
this service, been so steady and determined, and your discipline so ex- 
emplary, that henceforth I shall have the same confidence in you as I 
have ever had in the regular forces of the crown. To your firm and cool 
intrepidity it is owing that we return from the achievement of an ardu- 
ous service with our pistols yet undischarged, and our swords unstained 
with our countrymen's blood. How far this moderation has been met 
with a corresponding temper by the deluded foes of England's peace, 
your own dwellings, cowardly assailed in our absence, are here before 
your eyes to testify. Happy for Macclesfield that we were far hence while 
the wretched enterprise was in progress! Had we returned in the night 
of yesterday, according to our orders first received, justice had demanded 
a sacrifice the possibility of which I shudder to contemplate. 

"Farewell, my friends, and distant, far distant, be the day which shall 
arm us against the hearts of our fellow townsmen." 

I cannot quite understand why the counter-orders which enabled 
the foes of England to escape retribution should be a subject for re- 
joicing; perhaps this sentiment was merely a rhetorical flourish. 

My grandmother left no impression on my mind; and as my 
father and mother will be described later, I will pass on to my own 
generation, beginning with the eldest, Alice, supposed never to 
have been naughty in her life, and whose goodness one governess 
said was "positively monotonous." Of this specially beloved sister 
I chiefly remember that she said her Catechism in what we used 
to call a squeaky voice that is, a voice to which she has been 
prone all her life when reading family prayers. I also remember 
that she once said to me: "You have a very strong will; why not 
will to be good?" and that this tribute to my strength of character 

Impressions that 'Remained 

secretly delighted me. Whether the advice was followed I cannot 
say, but to harness the pride of a child to the cart is a good receipt. 

Johnny, the next of the family, was at that time my model, my 
tastes being essentially boyish a trait he met with mingled dis- 
approval and patronage. I soon noticed that I climbed higher and 
was generally more daring than he, and no doubt dwelt on the 
fact, which would partly account for a certain lack of sympathy be- 
tween us. Being himself of a quiet orderly disposition, perhaps too 
he disliked the violent ways that made my mother call me "the 
stormy petrel"; anyhow I always thought he judged me severely. 

After Johnny came Mary; two years later I arrived the first 
of the bunch to be born in England, all the rest being little Indians. 
When the Mutiny broke out, our parents were at home on leave, 
having brought with them Alice and Johnny, who were getting too 
old for the climate. As often happened in those days, the baby, 
Mary, had been left behind in charge of a cousin, the idea being 
to return to her in a few months; and while my father was hurrying 
back alone to India, Mary went through all sorts of vicissitudes, 
was carried off to a 'place of safety by her ayah, hidden behind a 
haystack, and so on, till arrangements could be made for sending 
her home. 

My father left England on June 30, and I was born on the 23rd 
day of the following April a ten months' child. In pre-suffragette 
days I was proud of this fact, having heard that such children are 
generally boys and always remarkable! Since then I have ascer- 
tained that no one but the most benighted old Gamps ever held 
such a theory, and wonder if the latter part of it was an invention 
for soothing paternal doubts and suspicions. 

Mary and I shared a bed, an uncomfortable arrangement for 
her, as I was afraid of the dark and apt to awake in the night de- 
manding comfort. She eventually insisted on a bolster, which our 
nurses called "the old man/' being put between us under the bot- 
tom sheet, but promised to hold ray hand on Monday nights till I 
fell asleep, and I spent the whole week looking forward to Monday. 
I was also terrified of churchyards, and as the church was close by, 
usedto slip out after dark and force myself to walk a given distance, 
say twenty steps, along the path between the tombstones, rushing 
home in agony after the ordeal was over. 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

There were four years between me and the next child, Nina, a 
gap accounted for, as I used innocently to explain to enquirers, by 
my father's absence in India. I well remember the change when I 
ceased being the spoiled baby; details escape me but not the ache 
and fury of it. The births of the other two Sidcup children, Violet 
and Nelly, evidently took place, but I remember nothing about 
these events; indeed, my early recollections, when not concerning 
myself only, are chiefly connected with Johnny and Mary. 

When my grandfather died (1864) Grandmama went to live 
with one of my aunts, and my parents moved into the best bed- 

CHAPTER II. ... to 1867 

F my own generation, all of whom except Johnny are alive at 
the present day, I shall speak as seen through my childish eyes; of 
my parents, who are both dead, I shall try presently to give the im- 
pression their personalities left with me in later years. But first let 
me describe our home. 

Sidcup Place, in the parish of Footscray, Kent, was originally a 
small, square, Queen Anne house, separated from the main road by 
a high wall covered with ivy, between the two a strip of garden. A 
wing had been added later, along the first story of which, facing the 
real garden, which was at the back, ran what seemed to me then an 
endless gallery, the most ideal of places for children to rush up and 
down and yell in. Connected in my mind with this gallery is one 
of those mysterious incidents that are never really cleared up, and 
which I for one believed was a case of crime too heinous to be ex- 
plained to good children. A cousin of ours, Alfred S., had appar- 
ently shut the cat up in a small cupboard which stood in a certain 
place at the end of the gallery a place in which an imprisoned 
cat should have had every chance of advertising her presence. But 
she made no sound; perhaps she was a deKcaterminded cat. 

Impressions that Remained 

Whether she actually died of starvation or was discovered in the 
nick of time I forget, but from that moment Alfred became a sin- 
ister figure in our collection of cousins, and when he died a few 
years later, I always believed the cat had something to do with it. 

There were roomy stables and a big old-fashioned granary 
mounted on stone pillars, yet none the less infested, so they told 
us, by rats a useful legend. 'The grounds were charming; on one 
side of the croquet lawn was the most enormous acacia I have ever 
seen, the bloom of which never failed, and on the other a fine cedar. 
Beyond was a walled kitchen garden with flowery borders and rose 
patches, and the object of our lives was to mount the walls, un- 
observed, from the far side in quest of forbidden fruit. Once I re- 
member the gardener, who had stealthily removed the ladder, sud- 
denly appearing with a long switch; we flew along the top, he at 
the bottom of the wall calling out as we reached the spot where the 
ladder should have been: "Now I've got yer, yer little warmints," 
and I am glad to say I followed Johnny's lead and took a flying leap 
down into safety, a drop of eight or nine feet not a mean per- 
formance for a child of less than that number of years. 

Beyond the kitchen garden was a shrubbery that seemed to me 
then what the woods in Rossetti's sonnets seem to me now a 
vast mysterious place full of glades and birds, wildflowers and 
bracken; beyond that again, not on our property I think, was a nut- 
wood intersected by green paths one exactly like the other, in which 
I never strayed far from my elders for fear of getting lost. I was al- 
ways haunted with this particular terror, and once, when separated 
for one second from my family in the midst of a seething fire-work 
crush at the Crystal Palace, started such appalling yells of "I shall 
never see my dear papa and mama again!" that the crowd instantly 
divided to enable my father's hand once more to grasp mine. 

Fringed with disreputable-looking willows was a duck pond, on 
which we used to put forth in wine-boxes and tubs; and hard by an 
old elm tree, in which Alice, Johnny, and a friend of his built one 
of the many descendants of the Tree House in the Swiss Family 
Robinson. It had a floor, and heaps of shelves and hooks, and we 
were allowed to have tea up there when we had been very good. As 
milk warm from the cow figured among our treats, I pretended to 
love it, but really was rather nauseated, and privately thought milk- 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

ing an improper sight. It seemed cruel, too, to maul the poor cows 
like that, and when the gruff cowman said they liked it, he was not 

I have two special farmyard recollections, one being the occasion 
on which young Maunsell B , a school friend of Johnny's who 
spent most of his holidays with us and considered himself engaged 
to Mary promised me sixpence if I would ride a slim black pig 
called Fairylight round the yard. For some reason or other we were 
dressed in clean, open-work, starched frocks, and when, after being 
shot off on to the manure heap, I was dragged into my father's 
study by our infuriated nurse, it was easy to see he could hardly 
keep his countenance. The other incident was my bribing the cow- 
man (again with sixpence) to let me see a pig killed conduct 
which deeply shocked and horrified Johnny, who considered such 
sights a male privilege. The terrific scolding that followed was un- 
necessary, since for months afterwards I turned green whenever I 
heard a pig squealing. At last even the nurse pitied me and would 
say: "Bless your heart, he's only squealing for his dinner," which I 
hope was true. Otherwise I am quite sure I was not a cruel little 
girl, except perhaps later on in the donkey days, when dreadful 
things were done with the butt end of a whip; but anyone who has 
had to do with donkeys will make allowances. 

Among other memories such as these, to which one can put no 
exact date, certain only that they root in the earliest days of one'sf 
childhood, is the great occasion when the house caught fire. A mod- 
est blaze, caused by the light-hearted way builders used to work 
beams into kitchen chimneys, it was soon got under; but I remem- 
ber the increasing smell of charred wood, and the wild excitement 
when the floor of our big cupboard was found to be smouldering, 
the nursery being above the kitchen. For days carpenters were in 
the house putting down new boards, and when the nurse's foot 
went through the ceiling below, the cook, whose imagination no 
doubt was running on workmen's tools, declared she had taken it 
for "a great big 'ammer." Whereupon everyone in the house began 
staring at nurse's feet, and there were allusions to "the blacks," 
whose legs are notoriously plante4 half-way between heel and toe. 

Another vivid recollection is Danson Park, inhabited by a cross, 
gruff-voiced old uncle, husband of Papa's eldest sister, who did not 


Impressions that Remained 

like children. As usual in those days there were a bakehouse and 
dairies, and we were allowed to skim a cupful of cream from any 
bowl we liked. But the bakehouse was the great attraction, for there 
we used to knead little dough mice, with currants for eyes, poking 
them ourselves into the oven to take home by and by. I remember 
that as a rule they were either stodgy and grey, or very white and 
requiring to be broken up with chisel and hammer. There seemed 
to be no medium. But among the many pleasanter greedy memories 
I have stored up in my life, and hope yet to store, is the exquisite 
flavour of some muddy perch which were caught by us one after- 
noon in a stream that ran through beautiful Footscray Place and 
were cooked for supper as a very special treat. 

Another incident stands out among all the rest, uncanny, inex- 
plicable, appealing to the agitated imaginativeness nearly all chil- 
dren possess, though what becomes of it later on one cannot think 
an emotion no one handles more supremely than German writers 
such as Hoffmann and his contemporaries. Again the scene is at 
Footscray Place, in front of a great jar full of what I now fancy 
must have been ears of bearded Egyptian wheat, and which we 
were told came out of a mummy's coffin. But according to my con- 
viction they were thousand-year-old insects, not really dead but in 
a state of suspended animation; for when placed in a soup-plate 
with a little water at the bottom they presently began to swell, 
"stretch out their legs, and turn slow somersaults. No one knows 
what nightmares followed that particular treat. 

Finally there is one more memory, dateless, but imperishable, 
because I was never allowed to hear the end of it an occasion on 
which all unconsciously a life's philosophy was formulated. Once 
Grandmama helped me to some pudding, and seeing I did not 
touch it exclaimed: "Why, I thought that was your favourite pud- 
ding!" My answer was: "Yes, but this is so little I can't eat it." 

I think on the whole we were a naughty and very quarrelsome 
crew. My father once wrote and pinned on the wall: "If you have 
nothing pleasant to say hold your tongue"; an adage which, though 
excellent as a receipt for getting on in society, was unpopular in a 
nursery such as ours, for words lead to blows and we happened to 
love fighting. There was one terrific battle between Mary and rny- 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

self in the course of which I threw a knife that wounded her chin, 
to which she responded with a fork that hung for a moment just 
below my eye, Johnny having in the meantime crawled under the 

Then again there was a loft in which queer old swords and pistols 
looted by my father in his Indian campaigns were stored away, to- 
gether with hideous discarded family portraits, to stab which was 
of course irresistible. But the strange thing is that we often fought 
with these weapons among ourselves, not infrequently in anger, and 
yet did each other no serious damage. It was in the loft that our 
first smoking essays took place. Some people say this is an acquired 
taste; if so someone acquired mine for me before I was born, for we 
often smoked bits of my father's broken canes, as well as tea rolled 
inside brown paper, and I can truthfully say the thing came as 
naturally to me as eating pear-drops, nor was I ever the worse for it. 

Of course we merited and came in for a good deal of punishment, 
including having our ears boxed, which in those days was not con- 
sidered dangerous, and my mother's dramatic instinct came out 
strongly in her technique as ear-boxer. With lips tightly shut she 
would whip out her hand, hold it close to one's nose, palm up- 
wards, for quite a long time, as much as to say: "Look at this! Youll 
feel it presently"; and then smack! 

I think I am the only one of the six Miss Smyths who has ever 
been really thrashed; the crime was stealing some barley sugar and, 
though caught in the very act, persistently denying the theft. There- 
upon my father beat me with one of Grandmama's knitting needles, 
a thing about two and a half feet long with an ivory knob at one 
end. He was the least cruel of men, and opponents of corporal 
punishment will say its brutalizing effect is proved by the fact that 
when I howled he merely said: "The more noise you make the 
harder Fll hit you/* Hit hard he did, for a fortnight later, when I 
joined Alice, who had been away all this time at an aunt's, she 
noticed strange marks on my person while bathing me, and was 
informed by me that it came from sitting on my crinoline. 

Even in after years my mother could not bear to think about 
that thrashing. All I can say is it left no wound in my memory 
as did snubs, and was the only punishment that ever had any effect 
for I dreaded being hurt. Indeed, to run the risk of ordinary 

Impressions that Remained 

pains and penalties, and make the best of it when overtaken by 
them, was quite part of our scheme, and I am glad to know that 
some of our happy thoughts when under punishment extorted un- 
willing admiration even from our chastisers. 

For instance one day, when Mary and I knew that incarceration 
in an empty room at the top of the house would surely be our lot, 
we seized as many books as we could lay hold of and stuffed them 
into our drawers, which buttoned up at the sides. I remember the 
agony of feeling them slip lower and lower as we were herded up- 
stairs, and how finally, just as the key was turned on us, down they 
came in an avalanche. On another occasion we were locked up in 
Papa's dressing-room and the shutters were barred; but there was 
light enough to ransack his wardrobe and construct, with the aid 
of pillows and bolster, a complete effigy of him lying on his back on 
the floor in full hunting costume. And as finishing touch the pin- 
cushion, with an inscription pricked out in pins, "For dear Papa," 
was laid on the effigy's breast. If that didn't melt them I really don't 
know what would, but as a matter of fact an indiscreet word let 
drop now and again by visitors made us suspect that a more lenient 
view of our crimes obtained than might have been supposed. Any- 
how I know we were considered very quaint and amusing children, 
and, as happens in most families, were alternately encouraged by 
guests to chatter and snubbed by our parents for being forward. 

The two great indoor occupations were boat-building and a game 
called "grandeurs" really dressing up and acting. It took its name 
from a sack thus labelled, in which were stowed away remnants 
of my mother's old ball dresses, feathers, the huge bunches of arti- 
ficial grapes then in fashion, and gold braid from my father's uni- 
forms our theatrical wardrobe of course. The word "grandeurs" 
had probably been used in fun by Mother, who was brought up in 
France, but we pronounced it in broad English "granndjers." To 
this day the succession of small cardboard boxes in which are packed 
the modest store of ornaments I take about with me are inscribed 
"grandeurs," and the smart housemaids in country houses who lay 
out the contents of my dressing-table may well be astonished at this 

Like all children we of course "acted" our parents' friends, and 
one of Johnny's and my most admired productions was a visit from 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

our neighbours the Sydneys. Lord Sydney, then Lord Chamberlain, 
was the most pompous old gentleman I have ever seen, exactly like 
"the Earl" in melodrama, with his curled grey whiskers and gold 
pince-nez. He had a way of holding out two fingers to Johnny and 
saying "How do boy" which was done justice to by his personator. 
Lady Sydney was rather a dear, I used to think, and by crinkling 
up my nose, looking down it, and complaining of the east wind, 
I was considered not only to resemble her as much as a child of 
seven can resemble a woman of forty-five or fifty, but to give a satis- 
factory rendering of what we were told was the Paget manner. I 
particularly remember the Sydneys, of course, because they were 
our local grandees also because their extreme friendliness to my 
parents caused some heartburning to other less favoured neigh- 

When we were engaged in boat-building, a type of conversation 
prevailed result of absorption in our job combined with habitual 
garrulousness which we ourselves recognized as idiotic and called 
"ship conversations." This was the sort of thing: "I say!" "What?" 
(Pause.) "I say!" "Well?" "D'you know what I'm going to do? 
I'm going to make a rudder." (Long pause.) "What for?" "D'you 
mean to say you don't know what a rudder's for?" "Of course I 
know what a rudder's for." (Pause.) "Wha-a-at?" "Of course I 
know what it's for." (Long pause.) "Then why did you ask?" "Ask 
what?" "Why I was going to make one." "I didn't ask why you 
were." "Oh, what a cracker! Mary, didn't she ask me why I was mak- 
ing a rudder?" and so on by the hour. Needless to say, our ships 
were raced on the pond and always turned turtle. 

The final scene in each day's drama was going down to dessert 
in starched, richly beribboned frocks, our hair well crimped; and 
sometimes as a great treat a teaspoonful of sherry would be added 
to our tumbler of water. In later years Nina was once heard con- 
fiding to her nurse that the one wine she could not bear was sherry 
and water. 

It will surprise no one to learn that I didn't care much for dolls, 
but strange to- say Mary was in the same class. Of course we had 
dolls, but they spent most of their time in strict quarantine, it 
being our habit to inflict on them long illnesses supposed to be in- 
fectious and yet to require no nursing. The fact that they bored 

1 7 

Impressions that Remained 

us was too revolutionary to be faced, so we had to find some plausi- 
ble reason for ridding ourselves of their hated company. The only 
difficulty was to invent enough new diseases. Up to the time I am 
thinking of, the family had been immune from measles, but not 
so the dolls, and when, at our wits' end, we decided to give them a 
second bout, Johnny objected that no one ever had measles twice 
and his word carried weight. Shortly afterwards the whole house- 
hold was down with it, including my mother, who became exceed- 
ingly ill, but I remember the incident mainly because of my joy 
that for once the great Johnny had been wrong, my mother having 
had measles when a child. 

As I am on the theme of epidemics which of us can ever forget 
the whooping-cough visitation, how we wandered about whooping 
for weeks and weeks, armed with dreadful little jampots that were 
hidden under sofas when visitors came, and inadvertently kicked 
over. After that the one thing Mary drew the line at was the dolls 
having whooping-cough. 

She was far the more ladylike child of the two. Besides a strong 
regard for appearances she had presence of mind of the sort the 
French call a plomb, and would come with flying colours out of 
situations that, to use an admirable slang expression, floored me; 
in fact the reproach so often levelled in the nursery of making a 
spectacle of oneself could seldom be addressed to her with justke. 
But one day circumstances were too strong for her. Travelling back- 
wards in a shut carriage always made us both feel sick, and once at 
a review at Woolwich, when we were perched on the top of the 
brougham to get a good view, poor Mary was overcome before the 
whole of Her Majesty's forces. It was some time before I let her 
hear the last of that. 

Those were of course the days of croquet, but I cannot remem- 
ber our playing that game at children's parties. I hated outdoor 
parties, because one was dressed up at an unseasonable hour and 
had to behave like a little lady; also, as happened later in the long 
struggle for the vote, the males, who were unable to do without us 
in private life, cold-shouldered us in public, and it may be imagined 
how a tomboy would resent this. 

To go to the seaside in the summer was part of our ritual. Lon- 
don was even then a big place, and then, as now, poured its drains 


The Smyth Family 'Robinson 

into the Thames; nevertheless Southend, a place no modern hy- 
gienic mama would dream of sending children to, was generally 
our bourne. There and at Broadstairs my life-long passion for the 
sea awoke; the sea, that is, as viewed from the land. As for the 
drains, my father had sturdy, old-world views on such subjects, and 
often said there was nothing harmful about "a good open stink/ 7 

It is curious to think how much less fuss was made in those days 
about children's ailments and accidents. For instance one day, when 
our parents, who were away on a visit, were expected home, I made 
some toffee, but forgot the first rule of all, to butter the plate, con- 
sequently the mess stuck to it. I leant my whole weight on the 
knife, holding the plate firmly, the toffee came away, and I cut my 
left thumb literally to the bone. It ought to have been a case of 
lockjaw. I held it in a jug of water and bandaged it with rags, and 
when the parents arrived all my mother said was: "That comes of 
wanting two treats in one day" (the first treat being their return 
home). The result of these Spartan methods is that all my life 
I have only just been able to span an octave with my left hand. 

At this stage of my existence I stood in great awe of my father, 
but adored my mother, and remember her dazzling apparitions at 
our bedside when she would come to kiss us goodnight before 
starting for an evening party. I often lay sleepless and weeping at 
the thought of her one day growing old and less beautiful. Be- 
sides this, wild passions for girls and women a great deal older than 
myself made up a large part of my emotional life, and it was my 
habit to increase the anguish of love by fancying its object was prey 
to some terrible disease that would shortly snatch her from me. 
Whether this was simply morbidity, or a precocious intuition of a 
truth insisted on by poets all down literature from Jonathan and 
David to Tristan and Isolde that Love and Death are twins, I do 
not know, but anyhow I was not to be put off by glaring evidence 
of robust health. I loved for instance Ellinor B., a stout young lady 
who rode to hounds, was a great toxophilite as they were called in 
those days, led the singing in church in a stentorian voice, and was 
altogether as bouncing a specimen of healthy young womanhood as 
could be met with. Persuaded nevertheless that this strong-growing 
flower was doomed to fade shortly, I one day asked Maunsell if he 
did not think she was dying of consumption, and shall never forget 


Impressions that Remained 

my distress when he answered with a loud guffaw: "Consumption? 
Yes, I should think she may die of consumption, but not the kind 
you mean!" 

At Sidcup too I learned that the accents of tragic passion have as 
poor a chance of being understood in the nursery as elsewhere. I 
worshipped my lovely cousin Louie, and one day when she took me 
on her lap and cuddled me, I murmured, burying my face in her 
ample bosom: "I wish I could die!" whereupon the nurse ex- 
claimed: "Why, Miss Ethel, what ever makes you say such a 
thing? I thought you were so fond of your cousin!" People's love- 
affairs, in so far as I could get to hear about them, always arrested 
my attention, and at a time when I was too young to know either 
the artist's passion or personal ambition, love seemed to me the 
only thing that mattered; but nothing less than Keats's unquench- 
able flame of course. One day a letter from an admirer of Louie's 
was indiscreetly read out in niy presence (she was then a young 
widow) and I was much puzzled by the phrase: "Qh, for one hour 
of your love!" Of what use, I said to myself, could one hour be to 
anyone? but for once asked no questions. 

Most of my early recollections are connected with turbulent love 
agonies (my own, I mean) or equally tragic humiliations, such as 
when one's drawers came off at children's parties a trouble little 
girls are born to as the sparks fly upward; or again when I handed a 
penny to the Post Office clerk, halfpenny postage being unknown 
in those days, and guessed from his manner of re-echoing my de- 
mand for "a pennyworth of stamps" that I had said something 
ridiculous. From one of these trials years alas! set us free; but 
the other an occasional sense of having made a fool of oneself 
will be with some of us to the end. 


The Smyth Family Robinson 
CHAPTER III. . . . to 1867 

JLVELATIONS played a great part in our lives. Some are remembered 
because of one single incident connected with them; for instance 
there was a brother of my father's whom we disliked, chiefly, I really 
believe, because waking up one night and suddenly feeling the ivory 
bell-handle bob on his bald head, he was so terrified that he began 
bellowing like a bull (or as Violet once said when a child, like a 
bull in a basin) and roused the whole household. Or again there 
was an aunt of ray mother's, a shrewd old maid with a twinkling 
eye one of the few relations who liked me whom I remember 
because of two remarks she made to Johnny. Once when he was 
fidgeting she exclaimed: "I really believe you must be growing a 
tail!" which I found intensely funny though rather risky; and on 
another occasion, when he was being a little censorious, she sud- 
denly said: "Do you know, Johnny, a man once made a huge for- 
tune by minding his own business." It took me some time to under- 
stand the point of this remark, but once grasped, I said to myself: 
"There's one for Master Johnny!" 

But a relation who really shared our life was a clergyman cousin, 
Hugo J. He lived in the next parish, always ate his Sunday dinner 
with us, adored our parents, and I really think spent all his spare 
time and he was a busy zealous priest amusing us children. 
His draughtsmanship was quite above the average, and besides a 
celebrated donkey-cart picture of which I shall speak later, we still 
possess a water-colour sketch by him of the Bengal Horse Artillery 
charging a native regiment. A young officer in spectacles, evidently 
my father, leads the charge, and is slashing off a Sepoy's head in his 
stride. We used to ask Papa with awe if this really happened, but 
he only chuckled behind his Times, and we never got a definite 

Kind as he was to us, in those days I did not love Hugo and I 
don't think he liked me. His was the type of mind that delights in 
scoring off people and humbling the pride of conceited little girls; 
also he had a habit I have always resented of saying rather un- 
pleasant things in a laughing way. All the same, what with his in- 
exhaustible talent for inventing agitating games, drawing "bogies," 


Impressions that 'Remained 

and immortalizing our adventures in pen-and-ink sketches, he cer- 
tainly contributed immensely to our happiness, and the rest of the 
family were devoted to him. 

He it was who started in us the craze of illustrating our corre- 
spondence, which brings me to yet another cousin, to whom, when 
he went to India, Mary and I wrote adoring letters by every mail. 
Postage to India was a shilling in those days, and my effusions were 
long and profusely illustrated. After months of correspondence our 
cousin at last wrote: "I love your letters more and more, and don't 
a bit mind their having only a penny stamp on them." I rather think 
each letter must have cost him about five shillings and he was far 
from well off. 

Another relation was a niece of my father's whose husband was 
quartered at Woolwich, and though he was a delightful person with 
children, I chiefly remember our being once sent over alone in the 
brougham to lunch with them, on which occasion the doors were 
firmly tied up with rope and the window-sashes plugged with cork, 
so that by no possibility could we get out. Sometimes I think we 
were as little fussed about as children could desire, but recollections 
such as this seem to point the other way. The truth is probably that 
our parents inclined to give us plenty of rope; that we then took 
too much; that aunts and cousins presently stepped in with criti- 
cisms and expostulations, whereupon the rope was for a while 
drawn very tight, then relaxed again, and so on. I have seen this 
happen in many families; the children know all about it and put 
black marks against certain names which it takes years and years to 

An infrequent and eagerly looked-for guest was my father's cousin 
and contemporary Colonel O'H., an Irishman whose tremendous 
brogue gave extra point to his tremendous language. A former 
Duchess of Atholl once remarked: "It is a pity swearing has gone 
out of fashion, it was such an offset to conversation," and certainly 
our cousin did his best to keep that fashion alive. His wife, who 
also had a strong but very pretty brogue, was of the gentle type 
such men generally prefer, his daughter graceful, languid, humor- 
ous, and very wide awake in a quiet way. Everything connected 
with him was seen through the usual Irish spectacles; his avenue 
was the finest in Ireland, his daughter had a prettier seat on horse- 


Major-Gmeral J. H. Smyth, C J. 
C The Author's Father, aged about mmy ) 

The Smyth Family 'Robinson 

back than any other girl in Ireland, her mare was the best-bred ani- 
mal in Ireland, and so on. What most astonished us was his jovial 
freedom with our parents, and when he pressed his favourite bever- 
age, "whisky dilooted with sherry," on my father, thundering out: 
"What? too strong for a seasoned old cask like you, John? Aren't 
ye ashamed, ye ould hypocrite!" we thought the skies would fall. 
But my father merely laughed and took it as a matter of course. 

Most of this old gentleman's remarks were deliberately intended 
to startle and cover his interlocutor with confusion, but his periods 
were so rounded, *and the whole thing put through with such a 
swing, that it was impossible to take offence. On one occasion he 
replied to our very genteel governess, who had mincingly enquired 
if he had not found it very cold in church: "Ah, ye sacrilegious 
wretch! If your religion doesn't warm ye, Satan will" a very 
perfectly constructed phrase, shot out as always with the force of a 
bullet from a gun. In short he impressed me more than all the rest 
of our relations put together. 

My parents were very hospitable, and certain friends were con- 
stant guests, including many old Indians whose names I have since 
met in print, such as Sir Alfred Light, a tremendous buck, middle- 
aged, with stays and dyed waxed moustaches, said to have been a 
great lady-killer; Sir Harry Tombs, Sir Herbert and Lady Edwardes, 
and others. I bitterly regret not having cross-questioned my father 
more persistently about India and the Mutiny. Nowadays fresh rec- 
ords of that most horrible of all our many wars are constantly ap- 
pearing, and a queer feeling rises in my heart when I come across 
certain names and remember I looked with a child's indifferent 
eyes on the faces of those who bore them. 

But one amazing couple of old Indians who, being relations, 
often came to Sidcup, and whose names figure in no records what- 
ever, were the A.'s. She was of the great Z clan, with a huge oblong 
face the colour of brick dust, and, but for her tow wig, was the 
image of her celebrated but not beautiful brother Lord Z. We were 
not fond of her, but adopted her name for a frequent childish com- 
plaint, "scruatum internum" with enthusiasm. Colonel A., a pale 
insignificant man, with a sad, drooping, white moustache and folds 
of yellow parchment skin hanging about his jowl, was the least 
military-looking figure conceivable; and I have since learned that 

2 3 

Impressions that Remained 

his career had been far from brilliant. Prototype of all hen-pecked 
husbands, he was ordered to bed, ordered out of the room, ordered 
to talk or be silent as the case might be, and ordered out riding on 
a chestnut horse of his, called Alma, that ambled, and was sup- 
posed to be the only animal he could sit on without falling off. As 
he rode he gently flailed the horse's flank with a gold-headed bam- 
boo cane, which, being hollow, did no harm but produced an im- 
mense noise; you heard him coming nearly a mile off. He was put 
on diet by his wife, and sometimes, she being at the other end of 
the table, would trifle with the unpalatable messes she insisted on 
having prepared for him; but presently the tow wig would bend 
forward across all intervening obstacles, and a gruff, imperative 
voice uttered the startling words: "Cow, cow/' which is the Hin- 
dustani for "eat." 

This reminds me that when they began discussing matters not 
fit for our ears, one of our parents, generally Papa, would suddenly 
say something that sounded like "Barba loaka sarmnay," which 
means "Remember the children/ 7 and continue the conversation in 
Hindustani, much to our admiration. It seemed strange that Papa, 
who couldn't speak a word of French or German, should be so glib 
in this heathen jargon, but as he had spent about thirty years of his 
life in India it was not surprising. My mother, who was with him 
there about a third of that time, picked up her Hindustani, as most 
women did in those days, from the servants, the usual number of 
which in a small household was thirty or forty; according to my 
father her command of the language was extensive but ungram- 

I think we were fairly well off in the early Sidcup days, especially 
after the death of my maternal grandmother, whose only surviving 
child Mother was, and who bequeathed to her, among other things, 
the very fine jewels and lace of which there will be dramatic men- 
tion presently. 

"Bonnemaman" as she was known to us in contradistinction to 
our very English "Grandmama," and whose name I sometimes re- 
member with a start was once Mrs. S truth, lived in Paris, and was 
a mysterious personality. I never saw her myself, but there were 
legends of her having taken to her bed soon after she was forty, 


The Smyth 'Family 'Robinson 

partly because of rheumatism, partly from "foreign" indolence, and 
chiefly in order to receive innumerable doctors in becoming caps 
and bed-jackets. We gathered that she was considered worldly and 
gifted, also that like all Straceys she had great musical talent, and 
years afterwards it thrilled me to learn she had known Chopin in- 
timately. They said she had been extremely handsome as we 
could judge for ourselves when her portrait by Jonquiere came into 
my mother's possession and one realized vaguely that an unfor- 
tunate second marriage had taken place, it being understood that 
the initials on the mother-of-pearl counters we played round games 
with must not be alluded to because they were those of Mr. Reece, 
the second husband. Louie once told us that when a child she had 
been taken to see her in Paris, and was sent out on to the balcony 
with a small French boy, who at once began spitting on the heads 
of passers-by; when suddenly beautiful "Aunt Emma" shot out and 
boxed his ears as Louie never saw ears boxed before or since. Later 
she remembers an awe-inspiring peep of her ill in bed, all white 
lace and cherry-coloured ribbons; the room was darkened and one 
went on tiptoe. I recollected these details because anything like a 
mystery rouses a child's interest. 

One morning, some time in the sixties, a telegram was handed 
to my mother under the acacia tree; she fainted, and we learned 
that Bonnemaman was dead. After that I forgot all about her, till, 
again during the genealogical craze, I came upon some rather curi- 
ous correspondence. 

If she, as is evident, was imprudent in money matters, Mr. Reece 
was nothing better than an adventurer, but she adoped him and 
quarrelled with her relations on his account. These must have been 
odious to a degree, for in one rather piteous letter she says it really 
was not kind of Aunt So-and-So to put about in England that she 
had large cupboards built in her bedroom in order to conceal lovers; 
an inspection of the apartment, she adds, would show that the only 
cupboard large enough "for such a wicked purpose" is in the dining- 
room. There is much discussion about raising money between her 
and a blunt, kindly man of the name of Guthrie, possibly a trustee 
and I think a radical, who writes a beautiful hand. One of his 
letters shows what people who foolishly preferred foreign countries 
to England had to put up with in those days, and is also so full of 

Impressions that Remained 

character and genuine good feeling that I cannot refrain from giv- 
ing it. 

September 10, 1837. 

Pardon, my dear friend, for the coarse terms in which it appears I 
addressed you in my last letter; the line of my pursuits, and my habits 
altogether, require me rather to speak the facts as they rise to my mind, 
and I believe I study far too little the conveying my thoughts with the 
courtesy due to the party addressed. I must go abroad by and by to study 
the Embroidery of Language and Sentiment, but in the meanwhile I 
cannot honestly retract a word of what I previously expressed. I disap- 
pove decidedly of your having to borrow from any man; the fact itself is 
sufficient, I think, to prove Indiscretion. As to the Respectability I shall 
say nothing; you would not have the contest in your own bosom were 
you not conscious of your own Wrong. 

You speak more to the point, in my view, when you hold cheap your 
own personal Sacrifices, if by any such you could redeem your independ- 
ence. Is this a bit-by-bit Tory-like feeling, or can you come it strong like 
a radical reformer? 

You say that not one of your wealthy kindred can or will help you. 
Then help yourself. Accept the situation offered to Madame Guithart, 
put Nina 1 to school with Amy Loo at Miss Coultons. I will with pleas- 
ure find the money for her charges. Take Tiny with you to Jersey and 
your family is provided for. In twelve months you will again be a Per- 
son of Fortune, and you will have done nothing you need be otherwise 
than proud of. Nina would be greatly improved in health and education. 
For I hold that French Education, however elegant and agreeable it may 
be, wants the honesty, the principle, the English feeling which gives an 
English woman a Caste and Superiority over the women of all other 
countries, and which your family run the risk of losing from their long 
residence in France in Foreign Society. 

My suggestion has nothing but common sense to recommend it. The 
idea of such a plan will horrify and humiliate the proud feelings of all 
your family, but still in Moral Honesty it is unimpeachable, and in all 
its Consequences would, after 12 months, be beneficial to you and yours. 
Most particularly to Nina, in whose welfare I feel a very warm interest, 
and not less in your own, my good Lady, though we may have different 
ways of proving it. I do not impeach your Code, only I claim a right to 
think for myself; it is not worth your while quarrelling with me because 

1 My mother. 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

we may differ. You can put my letter in the Fire and thus will end this 

m y d d friendly interference. 

Believe me always yours very truly, 


To this letter was added a very unmitigated postscript addressed 
to the husband, in the course of which the writer says: 

If the unkindness of your own family and her friends should compel 
you to mount a 3 legged stool, or even to break stones for a season, I 
should say that if you thereby redeem your Freedom and Independence 
you will be comparatively a proud and happy man, and every sensible 
person would applaud your firmness and decision of character. 

Finally he declines an oiler of hospitality in terms which suggest 
that his correspondent had been insane enough to try to borrow 
money of the writer: "Otherwise it has always been a pleasure to 
give or receive kindness of your wife's family as our forefathers 
mutually delighted to do by each other and I believe neither 
owed the other anything on the score." 

I found too an enchanting letter to her from a French friend 
who seems to have lent Mr. Reece three thousand francs on in- 
terest. No doubt this is the affair alluded to by Mr. Guthrie, and 
one finds a clue to the personal sacrifices poor Bonnernaman was 
prepared to make in the following extract: 

Quant au sacrifice que vous voulez faire pour satisfaire a cette dette, 
je ne Taccepte et ne Taccepterai jamais dans la forme que vous me pro- 
posez. Non, mon estimable amie, ce n'est pas moi qui vous d6pouillerai 
de ces cachemirs et de ces bijoux que vous aimez bien, me dites-vous. Je 
ne me donnerai jamais le honteux relief de vous avoir prive de ce qui 
vous est agreable; d'autant plus que ce n'est pas moi qui vous aurais 
reduit a une si facheuse situation. 

To make up for this dig at the husband he speaks of happy days 
spent in their society: 

. . . grace a votre esprit, vos talents, et ce caractere si aimable et rare 
que vous savez porter dans toutes les relations d'un commerce si deli- 
cieux. Moi je ne les oublie pas, et il feront encore les delices de mes vieux 
jours, malgr6 tous les regrets qu'ils me causeront. Mais, vous le savez, il 


Impressions that Remained 

est des peines, des chagrins, qui ont encore de la douceur, et fen trou- 
verai une grande, surtout, dans I'assurance que f ai d'etre toujours digne 
de votre amitie. . . . Adieu! Adieu! - vous rappelez-vous? C'etait votre 
maniere de prendre congel . . . 

Then there is another man friend who writes from Calabria and 
is called Paris a name of which no doubt, if they ever heard it, 
the family made capital. This letter presents the husband in quite 
a new light, as one "whose sound comprehensive understanding, 
whose deep and extensive knowledge of men and things, ought to 
make him eminent in the career of letters he now proposes to take 
up." Written in the April before the Guthrie correspondence, I 
imagine optimistic Bonnemarnan saw wealth flowing towards them 
through literary channels; the cashmere shawls and jewels were not 
yet in jeopardy. In this letter a reproach is levelled against her which 
delights me: "I am sure you overrate other women, judging by 
yourself/' and elsewhere she is told that her intimacy with a cer- 
tain Madame de Lyris, elderly and far from elegant, though, the 
writer is convinced, generous and noble-minded at bottom, speaks 
volumes for the goodness of her heart. "Young and beautiful as you 
are yourself, you know how to appreciate parfum though the vase 
be old-fashioned and unbeautiful." Paris seems to have received a 
poem from his correspondent at a critical moment which, suddenly 
found among his papers, makes him suddenly see her "a delusion 
that faded away with grief/' 

Given the ridiculous notions that prevailed even in my youth 
on the subject of "French immorality/' one can imagine the con- 
struction put by the family on these friendships, yet I feel con- 
vinced from internal evidence that there was nothing wrong. 

Tied up with these and other letters mostly disagreeable ones 
from near relations and drafts of her replies, which though digni- 
fied are rather funny, I found countless conundrums, charades, and 
Elegant Extracts in French, English, and Italian, copied out in her 
own handwriting. One of her most stately drafts concerns the dis- 
obligingness of her brother-in-law Sir Henry Durrant, who could 
not find the time to write out a "quadrille" which had taken her 
fancy while staying with him in Norfolk; and on the other side of 
a still more uncompromising draft are some cantering verses with 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

the refrain: "And I am the Gipsy King." I do not know whether 
she or my mother is responsible for this odd intermarriage of docu- 
ments. As "Paris" remarks: "Nina promises to take after you/' and 
it is very like both of them. 

Bonnemaman seems to have followed her candid friend Guthrie's 
advice and retired to Jersey for a while, taking both children with 
her, but after the death of the youngest little girl the family insisted 
on exporting an English governess, in order that my mother might 
have "some chance of being brought up like an English young 
lady/ 7 Finally the stepfather became so impossible that there was a 
judicial separation, but much to her relations' disgust Bonne- 
maman declined to come home and face "I told you so," and lived 
and died in France. She was considered to have lost caste by her 
second marriage, and as separations were looked upon as disgraceful 
in those days, no matter where the fault lay, her situation amply ac- 
counts for her having been thus shrouded in mystery. Indeed, Alice 
remembers that some time after her death, my mother, ever un- 
conventional, having casually remarked: "I wonder if my stepfather 
is alive," Papa looked greatly annoyed at such a subject being men- 
tioned before the child. 

Such was the woman who was hushed up before her grandchil- 
dren as a sort of family disgrace! After reading these letters, espe- 
cially hers to my mother, I have come to the conclusion that poor 
Bonnemaman, gifted, warm-hearted, impulsive, and thoroughly 
"injudicious," would have been my favourite relation. 

Not long after her death came the tragedy of all old Indians, the 
failure of the Agra Bank, and my father lost most of his savings; 
thus in early days I knew the chill cast on a cheerful household by 
financial worries. Either then or earlier he made heavy sacrifices to 
ensure each daughter that should remain single forty pounds a year. 
As five out of the six married, I am the only one to profit by the 
arrangement, and the title under which I claim this pension is 
"Bengal Military Orphan." 


Impressions that Remained 

CHAPTER IV, My Father 

J\JLY father, a fine example of what is fortunately a not uncom- 
mon type, was one of fourteen children, six of whom were alive 
when I was young. Tall, upright, strongly built, with the pleasant, 
open, very English countenance we see exaggerated in the portraits 
of Mr. Punch, he had a bearing equally suggestive of kindliness and 
authority. Having to wear spectacles slightly interfered, to my mind, 
with his military appearance, but in his Horse Artillery uniform, 
with its masses of gold braid and shaggy busby, he was a fine, sol- 
dierly-looking man and in all costumes the picture of a gentle- 

To give an idea how the England of those days flung her youth 
into the world to find their level, he went out to India at the age of 
fifteen, he and his brother having been presented with commis- 
sions in the Bengal Army by their uncle Sir Theophilus Metcalfe, 
and a year later was responsible for roads, transport, communica- 
tions, law and order, life and death, in a district as big as Yorkshire. 
There is an anecdote connected with his later Indian period which 
exactly characterizes him one for whom duty and obedience were 
paramount, but who was capable of transcending the letter of the 
law on occasion. During the Mutiny certain men of his battery who 
had joined the mutineers were caught and condemned to be hanged 
in their officer's presence. Their senior, a sergeant, the best native 
soldier he ever had under him, advanced, saluted, and said: "Sahib, 
you often told me I did my duty to your satisfaction; grant me one 
last favour, let me die by your own hand." "And by Jove/' said 
my father, "though our orders were to humiliate the mutineers in 
every way, I did as he asked and hanged him myself." 

When quite a young man he became what is well called a martyr 
to gout; not even a busy life and limitless sport, including boar- 
hunting (which he hated to hear called "pig-sticking") /could work 
off the floods of champagne that flowed in India, so to speak, on 
the top of my grandfather's hogsheads of port. But between the 
attacks, right up to the end of his life, his vitality and cheer- 
fulness, and what he chiefly laid store by, his usefulness, were 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

No man was ever more loved and respected. Single-hearted, 
shrewd, with great knowledge of the world, partly innate, partly 
acquired, the watchword of his life was duty, which he pronounced 
"dooty," and after leaving the Army he threw himself into county 
work and made his character felt. He often remarked: "If I had 
nothing to keep me busy outside the house what a nuisance I 
should be in it!" and was generally determined to wear out, not rust 
out. They always said he was first-rate on the Bench, but once he 
astonished his brother magistrates by sharply reprimanding a young 
policeman, who was boasting how he had hidden behind a hedge 
and caught a man riding a bicycle on the footpath. "Then you did 
very wrong/' said rny father, "to go sneaking about laying traps. 
You're there to prevent people breaking the law, not to hide and 
tempt them to break it!" 

He combined with his idea of service a simple piety he did not 
speak of but which his whole life was founded on, and he never 
went to sleep without reading in one of the little books at his 

He was a keen politician Conservative of course and Chair- 
man of the County Conservative Union, but advanced in his ideas. 
Long before the days of Tariff Reform he was in favour of a tax on 
raw material, and even advocated the enfranchisement of women, 
a theory no one else in our world took seriously. I remember his 
pointing out that three-quarters of the land in the parish was owned 
by women, and that it was monstrous these should be denied the 
suffrage. True, I think he was convinced that propertied females 
would vote his own way, but the injustice and unwisdom of their 
being voteless was what preoccupied him; no one believed more 
firmly that fair play is the only thing that pays in the long run. 

I remember once when I was a schoolgirl telling him I had asked 
Mr. Pursey, the cobbler, why all shoemakers are radicals, and had 
found his reply: "Well you see, miss, we has time to think" rather 
interesting. But Papa was not at all impressed and said he had never 
heard such infernal nonsense in his life. He was very tolerant by 
nature and disposed to hear both sides of a question; still, convic- 
tions are convictions, and one day, when he was well over seventy, 
he remarked confidentially: "I am getting an old man, but upon 
my word it is very difficult for me even now to believe a radical 

3 1 

Impressions that Remained 

can be an honest man/' He always took the chair at political meet- 
ings in the neighbourhood, and nine out of ten of his speeches used 
to end with an exordium to his hearers to "do your duty by your 
Queen, your country, and your God/ 7 We children, and I daresay 
our neighbours, used to look forward to this peroration with some 
amusement, yet it was uttered so simply and earnestly that it al- 
ways ended by impressing even me afresh. Towards the end of his 
life modern ideas were beginning to undermine the respect auto- 
matically paid to the gentry, but no one protested at his habit, 
when chairman, of silencing objections or awkward questions by 
rattling his stick furiously on the table and declaring the motion 
carried unanimously. People just laughed and let "the General's" 
high-handed methods pass unchallenged, such was his overflowing 

He was an unqualified admirer of the British Constitution, and 
though freer from snobbishness than anyone it is possible to con- 
ceive, had a delightful old-fashioned respect for Royalty; if in our 
haste we stuck a postage-stamp upside down he was seriously an- 
noyed; "It is disrespectful to your Sovereign/' he would say. For 
distinguished personalities he had the same quality of reverence. I 
remember an incident that amused me even then, when my sense 
of humour was immature. To his thinking, Gladstone was the 
Devil, and hearing that great man was coming to speak at Alder- 
shot he remarked: "If I see the beast I shan't take any notice of 
him." We afterwards discovered he was by chance on the platform 
when Gladstone stepped out of the train. "And what did you do?" 
asked my mother. "Well," was the reply, "as a matter of fact I be- 
lieve I raised my hat." All the same he was delighted when I evaded 
a suggestion from a daughter of Gladstone's, a neighbour, to come 
over one day and sing to him. Alas! young people are terribly ear- 
nest, and I never had another chance of seeing the G.O.M. at close 
quarters. - 

Between my father and me there was never strong sympathy; 
perhaps he recognized from the first a stubborn will that was even- 
tually to triumph over his. I think too the artistic temperament was 
distasteful to him, though it was that of my mother, to whom he 
was deeply attached. Once when Bob was a child, Papa found him 
busy painting and flew into such a rage at a boy's indulging in such 

The Smyth Family Robinson 

a pursuit that he swept the whole paraphernalia on to the floor, 
and Bob thought he was going to be cuffed. 

Yet the odd thing was that in some ways he himself had artistic 
instincts; Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, and other poets of his youth 
he read aloud admirably, and I was always struck with the musical 
cadence in his voice when he came to certain sonorous phrases In 
family prayers. Again, no one had a keener enjoyment of the 
beauties of nature, but none of this helped him to see in me any- 
thing but the rebel I certainly was. 

His excellent delivery of stately English prose came in well read- 
ing the Lessons in church, but he was not a reader gifted with 
presence of mind, and arriving at certain strong unvarnished state- 
ments in the Old Testament, usually bowdlerized or omitted, would 
cough and stumble and get into terrible trouble, much to the de- 
light of the congregation. My mother often entreated him to look 
at the chapter quietly at home first, but this his pride forbade. His 
versions, too, of some of the crack-jaw Biblical names were some- 
times remarkable, but there was a simplicity about him which car- 
ried off anything and everything. I can see him now, walking 
slowly up the aisle to the reading desk, sublimely ignorant of the 
fact that his frock coat was buttoned awry. 

On another occasion, when, because of the heat, the church door 
stood open, the congregation breathlessly watched a new fox terrier 
of ours come up the aisle, its mind full of misgivings, and eventually 
with shyly wagging tail begin snuffing his ankles. He went on read- 
ing, gave a kick to the right, went on again, gave a kick to the left, 
and then said in furious and audible undertones: "Take the brute 
out, somebody/' Which somebody did; but his anger at this inci- 
dent lasted all day; it is the only time I remember him doing any- 
thing approaching sulking. 

As years went on he got more and more gouty, sticking manfully 
to tasks other men would have abandoned long ago; but when the 
time came for giving in, he did so with perfect sweetness of temper. 
I used to think my mother rather cruel to him about his growing 
infirmities, but they understood each other very well and he did 
not resent it. There was an institution that on her birthday he 
should drive her out himself; but when it came to his being obliged 
to wind the reins round his weak, gouty wrists, she could not refrain 


Impressions that Remained 

from urging he should let the coachman take them. By this time his 
hands were so covered with big chalkstones that our old friend Sir 
Evelyn Wood said to shake hands with him was like exchanging 
greetings with a mailed knight, but to the end he persisted in carv- 
ing chickens and ducks, however tough. My mother would protest 
her helping was more like dog's meat than anything else, to which 
he would reply: "Well: cut off what you don't want and send it 
back/' but give up carving he would not. 

His great expression for actions or theories he approved was 
"right and proper." For instance I remember one Ash Wednesday 
when my mother, who felt lazy, said she didn't think she'd go to 
church because it was so cold; driven from this position by his 
statistics concerning the thermometer, she added thoughtfully: 
". . . and then I don't like the Commination Service." "You 
mayn't like it," he retorted, "but it's right and proper, and you 
ought to hear it." He adored it himself, waggling his head more and 
more approvingly as curse after curse was reeled off. 

He certainly was choleric in the old-fashioned military "damn- 
your-eyes" style,, and if a footman dropped anything would call out 
angrily, even at our grandest dinner parties: "God gave you two 
hands, you fool, and why the devil don't you use them?" a 
strange reproof, for surely dishes cannot be handed round on that 
principle, but I liked the phrase and hope the footman did. One 
proceeding of his greatly delighted our tennis guests; if they stayed 
too long he would hide behind a big laurel bush near the court and 
ring the dinner bell violently by way of a hint; some would linger 
on purpose to provoke this demonstration* 

When his own family fell under his displeasure, betrayed by the 
verbal unreadiness I referred to ? and which excitement and anger 
greatly increased, he would mix up his parts of speech in the most 
fantastic manner. Once when Bob, then a child of five or six, was 
teasing the dog Kitty, Papa exclaimed in violent irritation: "Now, 
Kitty, if you make Bobby bark I'll brain the poker." Or again when 
a chance cab, after leaving someone at our house, agreed to take 
someone else to the station if not kept waiting, he bellowed up the 
stairs: "Come along: no last words; the cab may fly any moment." 
In my youth the wine was always locked up by the family after 
meals, and one of his best "coq-&l'dne" as my mother, whose de- 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

light they were, called them, was: "Now then, Bob, lick up the 
locker well, I mean lick up the shutter." But it was in the tightly 
packed Sunday landau, a situation calculated to rasp nerves all 
round, that this mood would most often overtake him. I remember 
his saying to Nelly and Bob, who were grumbling at being squeezed 
to death: "Well, if you two infernally thin people can't sit five in 
a carriage I don't know who can," and as we drew up at the church 
door he added: "Now, Mama, you come first, so just get out of the 

Some of the things he said in his public capacity used to leak out; 
how he advised the Bench to kill two stones with one bird, and in- 
formed a Committee that the pollution of the Blackwater, a filthy 
little local river, was mainly caused by the "vast quantity of vege- 
table marrows flowing down from the hills." But in private life he 
never beat his advice to the mama of a rheumatic daughter: "You 
ought to put her under a masher." Once started on the wrong path, 
his conversation would be 4>n these lines for the rest of the day, 
and my mother would laugh till she cried. 

In spite of his insinuating on occasion, as most elderly men do, 
that he had been anything but a milksop in his youth, I cannot 
think he was ever wild, but he certainly had a weakness for what 
he called "a bit of a scamp," and always- maintained his best sub- 
alterns were in that category. We noticed, too, that he was more 
than indulgent to members of the other sex suspected of frailty; so 
much so that Mary, a particularly favourite married daughter, once 
said in fun: "I wonder what you'd do if I went off with some other 
man." Thereupon he became angrier than she had ever seen him, 
got up, stamped about the room, and finally went out into the gar- 
den in a fury, to reappear five minutes later, poke his head in at the 
door, and say with terrific emphasis: "I'd curse ye!" Then the door 
was slammed and he was not seen again for several hours. Such is 
the logic of the British paterfamilias. 

As time went on, expenses increased, income diminished, and 
his children used to think he was rather optimistic and happy-go- 
lucky about his affairs. I now question if this was so; anyhow I re- 
member being very much impressed I was about twenty-one at 
the time by the quiet good humour with which he said one day: 
"I'm not such an old fool as you all think." 


Impressions that Remained 

His one idea in later years was to rash his six almost portionless 
daughters into matrimony, and ship his only remaining boy, Bob, 
off to India; and with one solitary exception, myself, these plans 
were realized. During his last illness he insisted on the summary in 
the Times and the leading articles being read to him long after he 
was past following their drift attentively, and died the death of a 
good man at seventy-nine, having survived my mother three years. 
No better testimony to him exists than the simple words our young 
rector, Mr. Basset, who had worked with him in the parish as curate 
for many years, spoke in Frimley Church the Sunday after the 

I cannot finish my sermon without referring to the loss we have sus- 
tained in this parish during the last few days. One who was well known 
to us all, one who was a constant attendant in this Church and read 
the Lessons here for us for many years, has finished his earthly life. 

He had had a long and eventful career; his youth and early manhood 
were spent in troublous times. After many years of active work abroad 
he did not seek his well-earned leisure in retirement as many would 
have done, but retiring from the Army he at once took an active part 
in the welfare of the parish he had made his home. We all know the 
zeal and energy he showed as magistrate, as county councillor, as school 
manager, as a member of the various committees he served on a zeal 
that those much younger than he often wondered at, admired, and al- 
most envied. 

Whatever he undertook he put his whole energy into it; he was never 
indifferent, he was always hopeful and enthusiastic. His opinion was 
ever listened to, but he was one of those men who are open to convic- 
tion. If he could help anyone in this parish or district his services were 
always freely given, and many can remember his kind help when advice 
was required or some wrong had to be righted. 

At public meetings he always spoke out his mind boldly and fear- 
lessly. It seemed impossible for him to swerve from what he felt to be 
his duty, and from what he thought right, whatever might be the re- 
sults. But as many of us know, his power lay in his personal character. 
In many ways it was unique. Hasty and quick in temperament, yet he 
was kind and considerate - beneath all a gentle and loving heart, al- 
most a child's. If anger found a place there it soon passed into forgive- 
ness; he could not cherish ill-feeling: it did not exist in his nature, 

It was perhaps only a coincidence, but yet remarkable, that the last 

The Sjnyth Family Robinson 

time he read the Lessons in this Church was at the close of the Chris- 
tian year. The Lessons he read were the last in the Calendar. Some no- 
ticed then that age and work were telling on him, and that the very 
words, usually so well read by him, seemed to apply to him that soon 
the silver cord was to be loosed, the golden bowl broken, the pitcher 
broken at the fountain, the wheel broken at the cistern. . . . 

He has now passed to his rest, a good Christian, a kind neighbour, a 
true friend, leaving behind him an example that we should do well to 
follow. -St. Peter's, Frimley, April 8, 1894. 

CHAPTER V. My Mother 

JLo produce anything that gave a real idea of my mother's physi- 
ognomy was beyond the art of any known photographer; in the 
same way I half despair of describing, or rather making live again, 
her strange, difficult, but most lovable personality. 

It was a case of baffled genius and injudicious bringing up com- 
bined. Whether Bonnemaman settled in Paris before, or only after^ 
her second marriage I cannot say, but in spite of all the family said 
and did to prevent it my mother was educated in France, and at 
that time French was more her language than English. Children 
are always incurious about their parents' early days, and I never 
knew much about hers, but when a child myself I was deeply struck 
by her account of a vanished feature in the Champs-Elysees, typical 
of a gay simplicity no longer met with in this grave world. 

It appears there was a path leading under a creeper-covered wire 
archway to a wooden hut in a shrubbery; from the archway swung 
a picture of a gentleman in green peg-top trousers, who was raising 
his hat to a lady in a pink skirt and a hat with drooping ostrich 
feathers, and remarking, according to the legend below: 

"Madame, il faut que je vous dise adieu, 
Un devoir pressant rriappelle en certain lieu! 9 


Impressions that Remained 

I also recall her telling us that in the revolution of '48 her mother's 
windows were barricaded with mattresses, and that on the wall of 
the house opposite there was a great splash of blood. Some years 
previously, owing to the unsatisfactory stepfather and other rea- 
sons, it had been settled that she should live at Rackheath, near 
Norwich, the home of her childless uncle, Sir Edward Stracey, and 
I gather this very handsome "frenchified" girl, who sang exqui- 
sitely, was looked upon as a dangerous interloper by less brilliant 

At that time my grandfather Smyth was Director of the Norwich 
Branch of the Bank of England, and thus it came that she met my 
father, who was home on leave. The wedding took place from Rack- 
heath in 1848, and in acknowledgment of her offices as mistress of 
his house her uncle presented her with some very fine diamonds, 
which, when travelling, she persisted in carrying about on her per- 
son for safety; sometimes in a brown paper parcel, mysteriously 
tied on somewhere, sometimes sewn into a garment, but never in 
a dressing-case. These diamonds were not entailed, but the family 
had concluded they would go with the place, and one gathers that 
feeling ran high on the subject. This cannot have mattered much to 
her, for my father carried her oS directly after their wedding to 
India, where she stayed, as I said, till shortly before the outbreak 
of the Mutiny. 

Indian society was a small affair in those days, and what with her 
wit and gaiety, her almost southern beauty, and her music, she ap- 
pears to have been a sort of queen out there. And judging by later 
years, when we wished he would put his foot down oftener, my 
father may possibly have been an over-indulgent husband. 

She really was extraordinarily un-English, whether because she 
was educated in France or because her grandmother was a certain 
Mademoiselle de Lagarde according to her portrait a wooden- 
faced young lady, with a huge miniature of a Protestant clergyman, 
her father no doubt, plastered on to her flat chest. The quick vivid 
gestures, for instance, were foreign, and I always thought were eyed 
by my father's sisters with some disfavour on that account; but, 
above all, her way of looking at things was utterly the reverse of 
what is called insular. I remember a little conversation between us, 
the finale of which caused one of my aunts to "bridle." 


Mrs. J.H.Smyth 
(The Author's Mother, aged about fifty- five) 

The Smyth Family Robinson 

MOTHER (heaping her plate -with fried parsley] : I do love parsley! 

ETHEL: Yes, fried, but not stuck raw in the middle of one's eggs and 

MOTHER: Oh, I like it even as an ornament; it makes a dish look 

ETHEL (sententiously) : Do you know I have come to the conclusion 
I don't like anything that isn't founded on common sense. 

MOTHER (impulsively): And I infinitely prefer things that are not 
founded on common sense! 

Against English conventionality she was, of course, in secret re- 
bellion, but did her best to conform, as the following fact will 
surely prove. One of our annual excitements was the arrival of 
<4 Rouillard's box," a big case sent every Christmas by some old 
friends of Bonnernaman's, containing French books for children, 
pralines, and the celebrated barley sugar that cost me a caning. Pere 
Rouillard was a sculptor, the chief pride of whose life was some 
bronze eagles he cast for the Tuileries, and which I suppose melted 
away in 1871. The books were illustrated of course, and when the 
scene was a domestic interior, a certain piece of crockery was always 
visible under the bed; this, in deference to English prejudices, my 
mother would transform with a broad-nibbed pen into a very un- 
syrnmetrical top hat, the improbability of the father of the family 
keeping his haut de forme in such a place troubling her not at all. 
I stilj have a fascinating picture book showing how a tall plump 
fairy taught le petit Martin Landor his music, aided by slimmer 
fairies whose heads are crotchets and quavers, and who perform 
athletic feats on rows of telegraph wires which turn out to be the 
staves. These lessons seem to have been given at night time by 
means of dreams and visions, and poor Martin is always either sit- 
ting up in bed staring with all his eyes, or being lifted clean out of 
it by the tall fairy. Thus on every other page is a detail brought 
into harmony with insular notions of decency by my amazing 

To describe her as she was when I remember her best about 
the age of the detestable portrait given here, the only one extant 
she was of middle height and was said to have had a beautiful figure 
in her youth; even in old age she was far from unshapely, and her 
arms and shoulders were still good to look upon. Her hair was once 


Impressions that Remained 

coal black, but I think she took early in life to bandeaux with curls 
over the forehead, which could be trusted not to turn grey. As her 
complexion was a warm brunette, slightly helped out by art, the 
black hair never looked discrepant, though I used to urge her to 
change it for the soft grey arrangement she admired so in Lady 
B ; in fact she used to complain I was a "regular memento mori" 
Her eyes were her best feature, large, dark brown, melting eyes 
that Louie told me made them call her in her youth "the ox-eyed 
Venus 7 * the eyes of an artist, of someone with a loving heart 
and even as an elderly woman she was considered very handsome, 
though she can never have been as handsome as her second daugh- 
ter. But on the other hand it was one of the most expressive faces 
I have ever seen, and as her moods were many and her passions 
violent, he who ran might read much on that face. 

If ever anyone was meant for social life it was she; I used to won- 
der at the change that came over her in society, more especially at 
her gracious hospitality, the perfection of good manners, in her own 
house. She adored entertaining, and though I used to reproach her 
in times of financial crisis for her "love of dress/ 7 I was obliged to 
admit that, to use the charming French phrase, ette portait bien la 

This even in later life; but how I wish I had known her when she 
was young! One day after her death Lady Sydney, whom we seldom 
saw in post-Sidcup days, met Alice in a shop and began talking of 
Mother, saying that when first they knew her, she and Lord Sydney 
had agreed that never had they come across such a brilliant being. 
When she dined with them, all other guests, whether English or 
foreign, became colourless; not because of her beauty and charm, 
her wit and vivacity, said Lady Sydney these things one had met 
with in others to an equal degree it was the unique personality. 
"Had your mother married a diplomat/* she added, "she would 
have been known and acclaimed all over Europe." And having 
passed a good deal of my life abroad, I feel sure this is true. 

She had a great gift for languages, and besides French and Hin- 
dustani knew German, Italian, and Spanish. Though she had visited 
none of the countries in which these languages are spoken except 
France and India, nor had any practice since her schoolroom days, 
when occasion demanded off she would start with fluency and idio- 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

matic correctness, not to speak of an accent she owed to her musical 

For her strongest gift was undoubtedly music; she was in fact 
one of the most naturally musical people I have ever known; how 
deeply so I found out in after years when she came to Leipzig to see 
me and I watched her listening for the first time to a Beethoven 
symphony watched her face softening, tightening, relaxing again 
as each beauty I specially counted on went home. Old friends main- 
tained that when she was young her singing would have melted a 
stone, which I can well believe; all the warm, living qualities that 
made her so lovable must have got into it. When I knew her she 
had almost lost her voice, but enough remained to judge of its 
strangely moving timbre. Later on she loved to hear me sing, and 
it saddens me to think how seldom I gratified her when we were 
by ourselves; but I always was lazy about singing. 

She read at sight very well and her playing of dance music was 
gorgeously rhythmic. I can see her now, pince-nez on nose, rapping 
out the beloved old 'lancers/' leading up to the curtsey, gluing us 
for ever so long to the floor, and sending us flying back to our places 
with incredible accent and go. One used to wonder if the children 
she played for noticed how different it was to the performance of 
their own mamas, but I greatly doubt it. 

The same dramatic instinct made her cross-question us in what 
we thought the oddest way about incidents of our walks; "Tell me 
exactly what happened when you met; did you bow first or did he 
take off his hat first?" It all had to be visualized. 

In those days, Heaven help me! I believed, as men told us, that 
feminine quickness of intelligence was a sign of superficiality, that 
it was far cleverer painfully to count up the fingers of each hand 
than to see at a glance that five and five make ten. I was therefore 
not as much impressed as I should be now by the extrem.e rapidity 
of her mental operations; but I soon noticed that though her judg- 
ment on impersonal matters was markedly sound, it was quite an- 
other thing when she herself was in question. Many of her children 
have inherited this very common weakness. 

As I said, she had the warmest of hearts, and if violent in temper, 
was a generous forgiver and forgetter. But alas! capacity for affec- 
tion and for suffering go hand in hand, especially if you have a vivid 

4 1 

Impressions that Remained 

imagination and neither instincts nor habits to control it with, 
which was her case; indeed, whenever I think of her, David Copper- 
field's phrase about his "undisciplined heart" comes into my mind. 
No mother ever tormented herself more strangely. After saying 
goodnight to us, apparently in a happy frame of mind, perhaps she 
would not fall asleep at once; and then, as only too often happens 
with the hypersensitive, the passed day would shine upon her pil- 
low, breeding many woes. Molehills transformed themselves into 
mountains of pain and despair, and at cockcrow, as it seemed to 
us, a piteous Odyssey would begin from one bedroom to another 
we used to call it "morning calls" and in each was recited a list of 
wrongs and cruelties suffered by her at our hands, slights, veiled 
rudenesses, or ridicule, the whole thing as often as not wholly im- 
aginary. Explanations were seldom of any use, for even in peaceful 
moments her own point of view tended to obscure that of the other 
person so much so that we often chaffed her about her style of 
relating a conversation: "So he said something or other, and I said 
'not at all 7 that's where you're quite wrong. . . / " 

Oh, those morning calls, and oh, the pitilessness of youth! . . . 
Speaking for myself, I fully realized the intense misery of her heart 
and sometimes met it sympathetically, but more often with im- 
patience and anger. The whole thing was so unreasonable, besides 
which one wanted to go to sleep again. 

For these and other reasons she was always to me a tragic figure. 
Alice, the favourite daughter, who knew her ten years before I did, 
in younger brighter days, thinks her nature was at bottom a happy 
one, but the self-tormenting strain must always have been there, 
waiting to assert itself when youth should wane. She certainly had a 
great sense of humour, and her laugh was wonderfully merry to the 
last; indeed, there were touches of lightness in her that sometimes 
astonished me. In the midst of a scene of despair, for instance, the 
arrival of a new bonnet from Paris, or a bunch of roses handed in at 
the window by the gardener, would transform her at once into the 
most cheerful of beings. Children are generally little prigs, and 
this trait, which I now find wholly charming and touching, used 
to affect me not quite agreeably. 

When she was well and happy her talk sparkled with subtle turns 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

and comments V esprit frangais in English garb and nothing 
used to infuriate me more than the stolid faces of the rural swine 
for whose benefit these pearls were lavished, but she herself took it 
with smiling indifference. To see things wittily and express them 
felicitously came naturally to her, and she no more looked for ap- 
plause than would a swallow circling and darting about over a 
meadow. All the same this lack of response must have depressed her 
unconsciously, for I know that my everlasting delight in the point 
of her conversation gave her immense pleasure. 

In 1875 came the great sorrow of her life, the death of Johnny. 
This eldest son, of whom his masters predicted great things, had a 
slight hunting accident; his horse swerved jumping a fence and his 
knee caught in a bough. That was all; neither of them fell, but he 
went back to Westminster with a slight limp. Perhaps it was only a 
tiny displacement that with the help of X-rays might have been 
located and easily put right; as it was, he was pulled about and tor- 
tured by surgeons, and taken to Wildbad with no result. Then 
came the slow agony of realizing that all schemes for his future 
must be abandoned; at last he took to a wheeled chair and died two 
and a half years after his accident. 

Never in all this time did I hear my mother say an angry word to 
Johnny or even before him; he disliked scenes of all kinds, and how- 
ever close on the brink of the tempest mood she might be, the 
slightest sign of distress from him would calm her in an instant. I 
used to wonder at this and might have guessed from it how she 
loved him and what his death meant to her. But as he had always 
been inclined to snub me I had no particular devotion for him my- 
self, moreover was wrapped up as always in my own affairs. Thus it 
came that I never realized till after her own death that with him 
most of the sunshine went out of her life. 

She was very fond of my father, and always maintained that at 
a march past no one saluted the flagstaff with a gesture more noble 
and graceful than he, at the head of the Artillery Brigade! But lat- 
terly I think she was a little jealous of his popularity. He appreci- 
ated good cooking and had one or two lady friends who loved to 
give the dear General lunch on his way to and from his county 
work. When possible he said nothing about these little treats, but 


Impressions that Remained 

sometimes the hostess would innocently let the cat out of the bag, 
and then well, then I first began to realize that the most salient 
characteristic of the British male is not moral courage. 

Apart from such occasional and definite twinges of jealousy, I 
daresay she may have envied him his simple sunny friendliness. As 
can be imagined if I have described her well, she had any amount 
of charm when she chose to exercise it, but not the quality I mean, 
which seldom goes with genius. Possibly she knew certain gifts are 
denied to the gifted, but if so would not have reconciled herself to 
the fact. 

In later years guests who came to stay were not a success. The 
first day they were made more than welcome, but we knew the pace 
could not last, and presently, at mother's request, we were putting 
about legends calculated to relieve the situation. The usual one was 
bad news just received, which would cause them on their part to 
discover their presence was urgently required elsewhere. Visitors 
whom it was impossible, for some reason or other, to dislodge pre- 
maturely, must sometimes have felt they had outstayed their wel- 
come, I fear; and even when visits were short she so wore herself 
out entertaining that after dinner only one idea was left, a furious 
longing for bed. But it was thought uncivil to make a move before 
ten thirty, our canonical hour, and this was always the last straw. 

We used to watch with amusement the annual duel between her 
and one of her cousins, a shrewd pleasant woman with a flow of 
conversation I have seldom heard equalled, whose hour for retiring 
was unfortunately eleven. When the clock struck ten thirty my 
mother would say: "Ah! there's the clock/' and begin spearing her 
crochet together; but the other considered it was "dear Nina's 7 ' 
place to yield to her guest's preferences, and the stream flowed 
smoothly on. It was very agreeable talk, but what is the use of being 
even brilliant if people want to go to bed? At length when the 
hour struck she would say in a rnild surprised voice: "Is that eleven 
o'clock already?" and slowly roll up her own knitting. Never once 
did my mother carry her point, and I could not help suspecting a 
touch of malice in this phrase taken from one of her later letters to 
me: "Poor Georgiana still lingers on, but gets weaker every day 
they say she talks incessantly, but is very seldom conscious." 

As time went on, her hearing went more quickly down hill, and 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

nothing makes greater demands on sanity of judgment than deaf- 
ness. I am certain, too, that she was a classical case of what is now- 
adays called auto-intoxication, and that this, combined with in- 
ternal weakness such as often afflicts mothers of large families, 
chiefly accounted for the uncertainty of her moods. After the girls 
were all married, Bob being in India, I lived at home, and frankly 
confess there was no house large enough to hold her and me. When 
away, even on a short visit, the lovableness of her so completely 
took possession that I used to say to myself: "This time when I go 
back there will be no more rows," but after a day or two the old 
story began again. Far be it from me to say it was all her fault; I 
was not nicknamed "the stormy petrel" for nothing; but I do think 
not even a saint could have lived in peace with her, if only because 
she had nothing definite to do and overmuch time for brooding. 

In those days things were planned as a matter of course from the 
point of view of the male only, and no one ever gave a thought to 
the inequality of interest in the lives of men and women of her 
generation. My father was free to create for himself as many out- 
side duties as he chose; but my mother, unaccustomed from youth 
upwards, and I think averse by nature, to country life; no walker, 
caring nothing for sport, which was not the fashion for girls in her 
day . . . what should she do, shut up through long autumns and 
winters in a country house not three hundred yards from the Bas- 
ingstoke Canal and its mists? It was all very well as long as there 
were girls to take out, but I lived my own life of work and games, 
and was not much of a companion; meanwhile, for at least half the 
year, to go out calling in a shut carriage was supposed to be all the 
excitement a mama on the shelf could possibly need. 

Such is the force of custom that I think she only realized by de- 
grees what poor fun this was. I remember her complaining humor- 
ously yet rather bitterly of a way the coachman had, when in a bad 
temper, of suddenly lashing the horses and making them go on with 
a bound that nearly jerked her head off. Calling once on a very 
dull neighbour who lived four miles away, the carriage having by 
some misunderstanding gone off home, when she realized that 
there was no immediate escape from the intolerable boredom of 
her friend, she fainted dead away. 

True she was physically indolent, and would sit for ages, her toes 


Impressions that Remained 

on the fender, her skirt turned back over an embroidered white 
petticoat, staring peacefully into the fire. At such times she would 
often draw eights in the air with one foot, and only a few years ago 
my friend Lady Ponsonby, who never saw her, suddenly said to me: 
"Do you know when you are thinking you draw eights in the air 
with your toe? 7 ' This trick of my mother's rather got on our nerves, 
and Nina, who never used elaborate language, but often fell asleep 
after dinner, even in those early days, once astonished us by drow- 
sily murmuring: "It is taking no exercise that gives her that regret- 
table flexibility of the muscles." Nevertheless if it was a question of 
starting for her annual pilgrimages to Homburg or Wiesbaden, 
where the change of scene and the listening to music delighted her, 
or of going up to London, when fit, to the play or to concerts 
in short, of doing anything that amused her this indolence van- 
ished like magic. Mercifully she was fond of reading, but you can't 
read all day, and hours upon hours must have hung like lead on her 

In a word, if bad health was one cause of trouble, another was 
boredom boredom to death; yet no one tried harder, especially 
in later years, "to be good" as children say, and that is why I dare 
not dwell in thought on several incidents in our joint life, dreading 
the inevitable rush of useless remorse. In the winter of 1890-1 mat- 
ters came to a crisis; one day she announced quite suddenly that, 
more or less crippled as she was for half the year, she could stand 
Frimhurst no longer and must really live in London! ... It was 
tragic this dream of beginning life afresh at sixty-six, these visions 
of theatres, concerts, and other distractions for which she no longer 
had health and strength. ... I think she herself felt the hopeless- 
ness of the idea, for a few days later she told me she had abandoned 
it, and meant to try to make the best of things as they were. . . . 

Meanwhile, little as we knew it, her days were numbered; she 
suddenly fell ill, and three weeks after that outburst, we buried her 
beside Johnny in Frimley churchyard this mother with whom I 
fought so desperately, whom I loved so dearly, and of whose pres- 
ence I grow daily more and more conscious. . . . 

Of her death I cannot speak, except to say that it was piteous, 
heroic, and probably unnecessary. Had the doctor at once recog- 
nized what was wrong, had a surgeon been fetched without delay, 

The Smyth Family Robinson 

perhaps her life might have been saved. Of these things, too, it is 
useless to think; but as time goes on, my certainty increases, merci- 
fully for me, that some day we shall have a chance of making good 
our shortcomings towards those whose memory haunts us most 
abidingly the people who really loved us. 

CHAPTER VI. A Retrospect 

AN 1867, my father having been given command of the Artillery 
at Aldershot, we left Sidcup, and took up our abode at Frimhurst 
in the village of Frimley, a couple of miles from Farnborough, 
where I lived till his death in 1894. 

On the chance that other people rush as eagerly as I do to any 
window, no matter how humble, from which a glimpse into the 
past may be obtained, this seems as good a place as any to stop for 
a moment and try to give an idea of the social framework in which 
a. family such as ours was set in the early seventies a period which 
now seems almost as remote as Cran/ord. 

It must be borne in mind that unlike the scene of that delight- 
ful book, Frimley was even then not a real country neighbourhood. 
The proximity of the biggest camp in England, the Staff College, 
and Sandhurst, brought a great deal of amusement in its train, and 
also that rarest element in the country, an unfailing supply of men 
a consideration when you have six daughters to marry. This fac- 
tor no doubt weighed with my father when, on the expiration of 
his Aldershot command, he decided to buy Frimhurst; besides 
which, as the heads of big units were automatically called on by 
the county families, we already knew what was dreadfully styled 
"the nice people." On reflection I think the presence of a large 
floating population brought rather an unstable element into life. 
At first there was an attempt to interest us in household duties, and 
we took it in turns to solemnly unlock the storeroom door and 
watch the cook weighing out ten pounds of rice and twelve pounds 


Impressions that Remained 

of sugar; but by degrees this ideal lapsed, and ended, much to the 
relief of the younger members of the family, in a sort of budget 
system, checked on Saturdays by Papa. 

About one thing there was no slackness; neighbourliness and en- 
tertaining were looked on as duties; everyone who had a garden 
gave garden parties, and those who had the means dinner parties, 
on which latter occasions terrible things went on after dinner in 
the way of music. One of our neighbours belonging to the "nice 
people" class never dined out without his comet-a-pistons, on 
which instrument he would blast forth "Ah che la morte ognora" 
accompanied by his gentle smiling wife, who said the cornet-box 
was so nice in the brougham, keeping one's feet out of the draught. 
As for calling, that duty ranked immediately after going to church 
on Sunday, but it was an axiom that the more exalted the old resi- 
dent's social position, the less would be the alacrity shown in swal- 
lowing fresh bait. Thus from lips of persons trembling on the verge 
of friendliness you often heard the remark: "So-and-so hasn't called 
yet/' I suppose this is human nature but it seems very snobbish and 

Incidentally, by way of keeping up the moral tone of the neigh- 
bourhood, cruel actions would be committed. I remember one 
couple, humdrum and apparently respectable to a fault; he, a big, 
blowsy, rather foolish-looking man less like a Lovelace than any 
male on this planet; she, tall, elegant in the washed-out style; both 
of them more than humble and apologetic, as was only right, for 
it was darkly rumoured that once upon a time things had not been 
as they should between them. It had all happened, if ever, long 
ago, and meanwhile here they were in our midst, childless, middle- 
aged, and tightly married; none the less ostracism, mitigated but in- 
flexible, was their lot. They were asked to the large garden parties, 
seldom to small ones, and never, never to dinner. . . . Yes! once, 
for the wife of a Staff College officer, the Hon. Mrs. Somebody, 
whose forgotten name and kind heart I bless, actually did ask the 
outcasts to dine, and for a moment their stocks went up with a 
bound. But after all the Hon. Mrs. Somebody, though an aristocrat, 
was a bird of passage, whose vagaries should not influence the set- 
tled attitude of permanent residents, so back the poor couple went 
to the Arctic Circle. 

The Smyth Family Robinson 

If any clergyman should read these lines let me tell him that I, 
3. child, often wondered how this sort of thing squared with the 
Christian charity talked about in the pulpit. Children accept many 
strange things unquestioningly, still more they never notice at all, 
but that thing I noticed sharply and felt about as violently as I do 
now. Had anyone spoken in this sense to our old rector, I can im- 
agine his embarrassment, the nervous giggle? the mumbled plati- 
tude, the hasty retreat; for he was not, and did not pretend to be, 
a strenuous priest, but simply an incumbent of the old school 
that is, a man of good family and education, who looked upon his 
rectorship as a sinecure, and would have considered special atten- 
tion to the morals and spiritual needs of his flock eccentric and 
rather impertinent. 

Then there were the county balls to which of course residents 
subscribed, and at which the humbler country families had the 
privilege of mingling with the magnates and trying to identify the 
brilliant units of their house parties. At Guildford the ball was not 
supposed to have really started till the contingents from East 
Horseley Towers, Peper Harow, and Clandon had arrived; and 
quantities of people only began to enjoy themselves when the 
grandees, who seldom stayed long, had departed, taking with them 
the deadly hypnotic power they exercised over the smaller fry. 

Of course these great ones gave balls, also humbler people like 
ourselves, but we called them dances. To step for a moment out of 
our neighbourhood: staying in Yorkshire, when I was about sixteen, 
with the mother of a school friend, I was taken to Wentworth, 
where once a week, all the time they were in residence, Lord and 
Lady Fitzwilliam received any friends and acquaintances who chose 
to come. Lord Fitzwilliam, who was then Lord-Lieutenant, wore 
breeches, silk stockings, and his Garter ribbon, and everything, in- 
cluding the stand-up supper, was most gorgeous, yet somehow or 
other homely. There might be forty guests, there might be a hun- 
dred and fifty, according to the weather, and these entertainments 
must have cost a great deal, but thus did Lord Fitzwilliam conceive 
his duty towards his neighbour. I remember that my hostess, a 
cousin of Lady Fitzwilliam's and herself a woman of very good fam- 
ily, made a little curtsey when she greeted the lady of the house 
a survival of respect for office which struck me curiously and agree- 


Impressions that Remained 

ably. The whole thing was a glimpse of an epoch even then be- 
longing tc the past. 

To return to Frimhurst. The military environment of course af- 
fected the rural population and indeed may be said to have created 
Frimley, which, originally a few straggling cottages on the verge of 
a big stretch of heather-land, only became an independent village 
when Aldershot was selected as site for the camp. Hence there were 
very few old farmhouses about, but in one of these, of which only 
a ruined cart-shed now remains, I have tasted home-made goose- 
berry wine a beverage now almost as mythical as metheglyn. I 
wonder how many miles west of Frimley you would have to travel 
nowadays to find a farm where it is still concocted. 

Of our relations with the villagers I have few recollections, nor 
were they typical, because there was little feudal tradition in such 
a neighbourhood, and that little in course of extinction. Partly 
from egotism, but mainly, I honestly think, because it always struck 
me as indiscreet, I myself did little visiting among our poorer neigh- 
bours. But the associations of a common youth are imperishable 
things, and between myself and contemporary Frimleyites, espe- 
cially younger ones who were in my Sunday-school class, a very 
tender bond still exists, though I don't see them often. I remember 
that extremely poor old women used to come up on Saturdays 
for soup, and when a doctor's order could be produced, for a bottle 
of port. There also were presents at Christmas, and one old woman 
once wrote to my mother: "If there are any flannel petticoats or 
other Xmas gifts going I shall be found very acceptable." 

This of course was private charity what a foreign cook of ours 
called "giving to the door" but on the subject of official out- 
door relief my father held, in common with most poor-law guard- 
ians, what the women of his family used to think unsympathetic 
views. The strong objection felt by every villager I have ever come 
across to "the House" was in his opinion unreasonable and pig- 
headed, especially, perhaps, because he took immense trouble about 
his own Farnham Union and described it as a sort of earthly para- 
dise. Alas! though the horrors exposed in Oliver Twist^had been 
abolished, their memory was in the blood of the people. It seems 
to me that willingness to get along anyhow at home, rather than be 
obviously on the parish, is not without dignity, and if outdoor re- 


The Smyth Family Robinson 

lief is actually being received you still are keeping up appearances 
a decent form of the hypocrisy so dear to English minds. But to 
understand all this requires imagination, my father's weak point. 

Where the question was one of level-headedness and common 
sense he never failed. For instance when the County Council 
schemes destroyed the monopoly of the gentry to sit on the Bench, 
many of his brother magistrates were prepared to resign rather than 
act on terms of equality with the grocer; but my father maintained 
it was more than ever the duty of men of breeding and education 
to stick to the ship and keep touch with the class in whose hands 
more and more power was likely to be placed. The result was that 
not one of the old magistrates resigned. 

On one point I am of course absolutely ignorant, the morality 
of our rural population. After the revelations that came to all 
women in the fight for the vote, and since I myself reached an age 
at which it is possible to glean first-hand evidence, and know how 
even the best and most decent "good fellows" of one's own ac- 
quaintance live, what chiefly amazes me is the contrast between the 
smooth surface of society and the orgiastic whirlpool below. This 
surface, particularly smooth in England, is worked up by each race 
according to its genius and must be assumed to be a necessity, but 
it is strange to think how completely women of my generation 
were taken in by it. Of course with the vote the worst evils, bred 
of our complete divorce from reality, will be gradually removed, 
which is better than nothing being about as much as the individ- 
ual who attempts to reform his own character can hope for. 

It is a commonplace to mention the decrease of drunkenness, but 
I do it because if, as a child, you were in the habit of walking about 
country lanes, the altered state of things comes home to you with 
more force than as a thesis found in a pamphlet on social evolution. 
It was quite usual then to see men reeling about the roads on Satur- 
days and Sundays, now it is quite the exception. So much so that 
on hearing recently how the stately footman of a friend of ours 
was ordered to descend from the box and assist an invalid in the 
ditch, who turned out to be an old gipsy woman, exceedingly drunk 
and only equal to ejaculating repeatedly: "Blesh you darlin', blesh 
you darlin'," one had quite a sentimental old-times feeling. 

In conclusion, if these general observations seem, as they do to 

5 1 

Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

me, somewhat meagre, it only proves what was said before that 
life in our neighbourhood was not of the classical well-ordered rural 
type, but rather a foretaste of the cinema. 

CHAPTER VII. 1867-72 

1 HAVE been trying to recall whether up to the time of our migra- 
tion to Frimhurst I had shown a special bent for music. Proba- 
bly, for Pere Rouillard specially mentioned that "Martin Landor" 
was for "la petite musicienne" I don't think I composed in the 
Sidcup days, but Mary and I sang little duets, simple tunes to 
which I put "seconds" as it was called, and in the quality of those 
seconds and my accompaniments, I myself, had I been listening, 
should certainly have detected a natural gift. But to judge these 
things takes an expert, and my mother had had no real musical 
training. Transposing and playing by ear came naturally to me, but 
so it did to her, so she would not have been much impressed by 
that; or perhaps she thought I was conceited enough without special 
encouragement as regards my music; anyhow I cannot remember 
hearing or thinking much about it. 

On a very hot September afternoon we arrived at North Camp 
Station, and I was one of a detachment that walked the two and a 
half miles to Frimhurst along the pretty Basingstoke Canal, past 
Mitchett Lake, scene of many future boating excursions. My fa- 
ther's walking powers were certainly unimpaired at that time, for I 
remember trotting occasionally in order to keep up with him and 
wishing he would not walk so fast. Dragonflies were poising and 
darting among the reeds. I had never seen any before and thought 
them the most beautiful things imaginable. 

The entrance to the grounds may have played a part in my 
father's decision to take Frimhurst, for it is the sort of entrance that 
makes an owner modest about the rent. At this point the South- 
western Railway passes under the canal, and for about twenty 

i 867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

yards the carriage drive is actually a bit of the towing path on 
the one side the low tunnel-parapet, on the other some rickety 
posts and rails fencing the canal, so that you are between the devil 
and the deep sea. My father, who had an eye for a horse, generally 
bought quadrupeds capable of dragging a heavy landau full of 
people to church in single harness; for on Sundays the principle 
was cruelty to animals, balanced by kindness to the stable men, 
who thus had only one set of harness to clean. Our horses there- 
fore were seldom of the well-bred nervy type, but often young and 
imperfectly trained, so it may be imagined what happened when, 
with a sudden roar, a train dashed out of the tunnel and sent a 
cloud of steam swirling into their faces. I only once saw actual evi- 
dence of an accident myself, an Artillery wagon and pair having 
just gone through the posts and rails; the horses were calmly stand- 
ing in midstream as if that had been their original destination, 
waiting for the driver to return with help. After a year or two, in 
deference to my mother's entreaties, the height of the parapet was 
increased, which slightly improved matters. 

There are two celebrated incidents connected with the tunnel, 
the first being an amazing example of human stupidity that is 
almost incredible, but I witnessed it myself. Hearing a train com- 
ing, a cousin of ours, aged about twenty-five, rushed like mad to the 
spot, stared at the canal, and then said in tones of deep disap- 
pointment: "Why, they told me the smoke comes up through the 

The second incident is far more credible. Not long after our ar- 
rival at Frimhurst Papa got a letter from the railway company, 
saying that boys were in the habit of hurling stones and other 
missiles on to the trains from the parapet, a large piece of brick 
having recently missed a stoker's head by a hairbreadth; and that 
as it was on his property would he please put a stop to the nuisance. 
On this occasion he modified his views regarding the methods of 
the police, and bade a constable hide behind the hedge and watch. 
One day the man came up to the house and reported he had identi- 
fied the culprit. "Why didn't you bring him up here?" said my 
father, "I'd have rubbed his ears for him and told his mother to 
give him a good hiding." "Well, sir/' answered the constable, "it's 
very awkward, but it's one of your young ladies"; and as a matter 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

of fact I was the culprit. Oh, the excitement of it, the preliminary 
piling up of ammunition and dropping of one trial stone; the rum- 
ble that told you the train had entered the tunnel; the quick guess 
at its pace, and the chance, supposing you had missed the tender, 
that something might yet be done with the final guard's van, 
which would emerge . . . when? I can feel the thrill of it now! 

At the other end of our property was another railway bridge 
called Deepcut, which gives an idea of the place. Like my father 
I always encourage friends' and relations' children to take risks, 
especially if they are cursed with timorous parents, so I hope it is 
not too conceited to say that I really was a daring little girl myself. 
Nowadays I often bike over Deepcut bridge, and not for less than 
fifty pounds would I do today what I often did then, run along the 
parapet. Let me confess that I was terrified, just as in later years 
during perilous climbs in the Alps; and this is the fascination of 
both performances. 

A home you came to know in later life can never be as poetical 
a memory as one you left when very young and never saw again. 
Still Frimhurst was an attractive place, a far bigger and better house 
than Sidcup, bounded on one side, it is true, by the deep railway 
cutting, on the banks of which rabbit-ferreting at once became a 
passion, but on the other, as a compensation, is a really picturesque 
section of the old canal, out of which opened a lake owned by a 
neighbour, where we fished and learned to skate. There were about 
thirty-two acres of grounds, and I think the pasturage must have 
been poor, as my father was for ever spreading over it a special sort 
of manure that seemed to consist chiefly of brickbats, sardine-tins, 
and old boots. By and by, when the golf passion surged into Eng- 
land, we vamped up a home course, and this strange manure gave 
trouble playing through the green, lost balls being found in the 
broken base of blacking bottles and other difficult places. Near 
the canal was a delightful orchard; one tree in it, a white-heart 
cherry tree with spreading branches, was the scene of many of my 
climbing feats and Mary's sentimental trial trips, for the cherry 
tree was the favourite haunt of a long series of boy lovers. I have a 
tragic vision of my mother in that orchard, crying as if her heart 
would break, the doctor having just told her there was but a slender 
chance of rearing Bob, the last baby. 





1 867-7 2 ] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Lower down the canal is a series of locks, across the gates of 
which it was Johnny's and my delight to run. Mary, who was liable 
to sudden giddiness, joined in this amusement, though unwillingly, 
and had a system of letting herself down towards the centre of the 
gates, a leg on each side, and shuffling across, which was unlady- 
like but better than drowning, Nina, who also had a bad head, 
would be urged onwards by a hat-pin applied to her fat calves. 

Round the canal many memories linger. I often look nowadays 
at a "flash" near our entrance-lodge, and think about children's 
first terrified glimpses of Death; for there a little boy, whom we 
noticed wading as we crossed the bridge one day, lost his footing, 
and was carried home a corpse to his mother before we came back 
again across the bridge. I remember Alice telling me God had 
taken the little boy to Himself, that all was well with him, and 
that I must not be so terror-stricken and miserable about it. ... 

My father always said what finally decided him to take Frim- 
hurst was the fine drawing-room which would make "such a nice 
room for your mother/' It certainly was delightful in summer, but 
nowadays would hardly be considered habitable in the winter, with 
its solitary fireplace and five French windows, three of which were 
in the bow-window where my poor mother used to write her letters. 
Central heating was then unknown in England, and my father 
would have considered it a most unhealthful invention, but I am 
certain the appalling cold of that room, and of her big bedroom 
above it, must have been still more unhealthful for one leading a 
sedentary life. Indeed, I often wonder whether the slowness of 
thought that characterizes our race is not the result of an insane 
objection to warm rooms, ending in congealed brain. 

The schoolroom was in the oldest part of the house. The win- 
dows, sort of square portholes, to see out of which you had to stand 
up, were shuttered at night by sliding mirrors. Running under them 
horizontally on the outside wall were ivy branches as thick as a 
man's arm, the furry coating of which was worn to the bone by 
the boots of climbing children. All our many governesses resembled 
each other in one particular: that when reading after supper on 
summer evenings they would see ghostly heads peeping in at the 
portholes, shoot the shutters with a bang, and rash into the pas- 
sage screaming: "Burglars!" 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

This room was the only one with charm in an otherwise common- 
place but very comfortable house. 

It was in the year following our arrival at Frimhurst that Bob, 
the boy who was to console my mother for the coming loss of 
Johnny ? was born. He was a very quiet, delicate child, and accord- 
ing to a family legend never spoke till the day he was sitting under 
the table, clipping the cat's fur with a pair of scissors, and told to 
desist; whereupon he suddenly burst into speech with the remark 
"All the cats in the wairld aren't yours!" and never ceased talking 
afterwards. It is odd that all I can remember of the two youngest 
children in their extreme youth is this legend, and a riddle asked 
by Nelly: "If a new-laid egg could speak, what jam would it men- 
tion?" Answer: "Ma-me-laid." 

Johnny was now a Westminster boy. My father's youngest sister 
had married Dr. Charles Scott, who at this time was Headmaster 
of Westminster, and Mary and I sometimes spent the night at their 
house in Dean's Yard. From our window we had a grand view 
of the boys playing racquets against the schoolhouse wall, or 
flying into school in their trenchers; and occasionally we caught 
sight of my uncle, in cap and gown, sweeping across the school 
yard, always in a violent hurry. It was understood that if we 
met Johnny in the cloisters or any other part of the dear old build- 
ings we must make no sign of recognition and expect to be cut. 
We were. 

This childless uncle and aunt always spent Christmas with us, 
hardly a comfortable arrangement I should think for Johnny, but 
he was a more than satisfactory pupil, and my cold, stately, alarm- 
ing aunt worshipped him as I remember realizing with a start 
when, in a letter she wrote my mother after his death, I read the 
words: "He was the apple of my eye." Of my uncle we were terrified 
in our early days. He was really one of the dearest, warmest-hearted 
of men but every inch a schoolmaster, and I never knew anyone 
who suffered fools less gladly. His severe manner, intolerance of 
contradiction, and general dictatorialness, amounting I fear to quar- 
relsomeness, were supposed to stand in his way when bishops were 
being nominated; but aloofness from intrigue and time-serving 
probably hampered him still more. He always preached the Christ- 


1 867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

mas sermon in Frimley Church, which was looked forward to as a 
great intellectual treat by the congregation. 

On Christmas Day we children came down to dinner, and after 
snapdragons and punch, grown-ups and all played round games, 
generally "commerce." When my father began explaining what 
card one ought to have played, Uncle Charles would say in his 
high-pitched, querulous voice: "Now, John, do let an old school- 
master make the matter clear to the child/' and proceed to do this 
in a manner so involved that my mother, whom he was very fond * 
of, once exclaimed: "Really, Charles, I don't know if you under- 
stand your own explanations, but no one else can." She was more 
than free and unabashed with this alarming personality, a freedom 
that filled us with the same awe as did the ways of Colonel O'H 
with Papa. One day, driving with him through Aldershot, he doz- 
ing on the opposite seat, she poked him hard with her parasol and 
said: "Do wake up; they'll think I am driving through the camp 
with a tipsy clergyman." I remember once, in one of those silences 
that sometimes fall on a large party, asking quite innocently: 
"What is a pedagogue?" Result: still deader silence, and then every- 
one laughed rather nervously. 

Daily as the clock struck twelve these two would sally forth on a 
constitutional up the Windmill Hill just outside our gates, and af- 
ford a spectacle rare, I think, in England, but which may be en- 
joyed on Sundays throughout the whole German Empire; that is, 
he always stalked along a good ten yards in front of his wife. Thus 
they started, and thus they returned at twelve forty-five, and while 
kicking off his goloshes in the porch he would hold the door open 
and say impatiently: "Come along, Susan" (with a slight accent on 
the second syllable), and she would give a little nervous giggle to 
which she was subject, but not hurry in the very least. This was the 
invariable ritual. When their visit was concluded, a fly and pair was 
heaped up with maid and luggage and they started on a ten-mile 
drive across Fox Hills and the Hog's Back, along a beautiful road 
since closed to all but the military, to pay Christmas visit Number 
2 to another cousin of his, Lord Midleton. For some time after- 
wards Peper Harow rang, as did Frimhurst, with anecdotes about 
what Uncle Charles said to the lodge-keeper who hoped he was 
quite well, or to the rash lady who asked if schoolinastering was not 


Impressions that Remained [186772 

a very interesting task. When he was about to annihilate somebody 
he would begin with an impatient, almost larmoyant ''My dear sir" 
or "madam/' which caused a hush to fall upon the assembly, sports- 
man, lover, or bore breaking off his tale to be in at the death. I don't 
think he was a popular Headmaster, though greatly respected; but 
only in private life did you get to know the real man. 

Once, many years after the time I am speaking of, a tragedy hap- 
pened on that bit of closed country on the Fox Hills. There are rifle 
butts up there, and one foggy day hounds ran into the danger zone. 
Suddenly realizing where he was, the Master began blowing his 
horn frantically, and while one of our Frimley neighbours was say- 
ing to her son: "I wonder what that's for," the boy fell from his 
horse dead at her feet, a stray bullet having passed through his 

CHAPTER VIII. 1867-72 

JL/iFE at Frimhurst up to the time I came out falls into two periods, 
the governess and the school epochs. Our governesses never stayed 
long; they pass before my mind's eye in dreary procession; some 
English, others German; some with dyspepsia, others with unfor- 
tunate natures perhaps the same thing under different names; 
nearly always ugly, and quite invariably without the faintest notion 
of making lessons either pleasant or profitable. Certainly we were 
difficult pupils, naughty and refractory to discipline; still, we were 
quite intelligent children, and later on Mary and I learned some- 
thing at school; but excepting one, who without intending it 
determined my course in life, our governesses might have been 
lay-figures for all we got out of them. I think the whole governess 
system monstrous and unworkable; even as a child I vaguely under- 
stood how impossible is the position of these poor unwilling in- 
truders into the family circle, and hope time will evolve some more 
civilized scheme of education for "the daughters of the nobility and 


1 867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

gentry/' On the other hand our governesses were specimens of hu- 
manity few families, however kind-hearted, could assimilate. 

I have said I was subject to "passions" as I called them, and about 
this time drew up a list of over a hundred girls and women to whom, 
had I been a man, I should have proposed; it is therefore no great 
tribute to the charms of Miss Hammond, the first governess I re- 
member, that her name figured on the list of passions. She was 
young, rather pretty, and wore a chignon which she told us was her 
own hair. Perhaps she meant in the sense that she had paid for it, 
for alasl one day she slipped up on the ice and away rolled the 
chignon like the heart in Richepin's terrifying ballad, but without 
asking its owner if she had hurt herself. I said nothing; one is too 
paralysed by dreadful emotion to speak at such moments, but then 
and there my passion expired. 

And now comes the recital of one of the ugliest things I ever did. 
A few months later Miss Hammond departed for good in the same 
low pony-chaise with which these records begin . . . and as it sped 
down the drive I clung on to the back, hissed in her ear: "I know 
your chignon is false!" and dropped off. I was quite aware that my 
action was hateful, but it is not till old age is in sight that sincerity- 
mad people can quietly let a deceiver think his deception has been 
a success. 

H. B., the great friend of my maturer years, and the wisest man 
I ever knew, had agreeable views on the subject of making up; he 
said it predisposed him in a person's favour, as showing a wish to 
please. I quite see this point of view, but it is not mine, and in my 
youth I felt about it so violently that I remember telling my mother, 
who was demonstrative and craved for demonstration, that I should 
kiss her much oftener but for her "powder and things." "Things" 
stood for the very moderate amount of rouge and kohl with which, 
as I said, she repaired the ravages of time, and I am glad to say my 
remark produced not the slightest change in this innocent habit. 

One of Miss Hammond's successors presented my mother with 
the most astonishing specimen of German ingenuity I have ever 
seen, except perhaps similar souvenirs fabricated by the grand 
dukes and duchesses who clustered round Goethe in his country re- 
treat and deigned to live the simple life there. This treasure is made 
of thin wire, small black beads, and eight locks cut from the eight 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

heads of the Smyth children, and represents a bunch of blackber- 
ries, the berries being made of beads, and the leaves how she did 
it I cannot think of hair. There were all shades in our family, 
from black to flaxen, but though the leaves are still shapely and 
tidy, age and dust have wrought them all to the same dull hue. By 
immemorial custom this strange object has lived under a glass 
shade, stuck into one of Prince Charlie's goblets, and there it is, 
confronting me at this moment. 

During the Franco-Prussian War, when we had a rather feeble- 
minded German governess, we used to rush in to her first thing in 
the morning announcing imaginary German defeats and the poor 
governesses never saw the papers till evening! We were too young 
to have any bias one way or the other, though my mother of course 
was all for the French; it was just the ferocious playfulness of 
youth. The sanctimonious tone of the Hohenzollern telegrams, to 
which the world is now accustomed, was then a novelty and caused 
much astonishment. There was a paraphrase by Mr. Punch of one 
of the King of Prussia's effusions to his Queen which delighted 

By Heaven's will, my dear Augusta 
We've had another awful buster, 
Ten thousand Frenchmen gone below! 
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! 

By such trivial incidents do great contemporary events hook 
themselves into the memory of a child. Except the fact that we all 
picked lint, these are my only recollections connected with a war 
of which the whole world has not yet finished reaping the har- 
vest! . 7 . 

Besides the catalogue of "passions" I drew up a paper I would 
give anything to study today a list of things to be avoided when 
one should be grown up. One was "never tell people what your 
parents used to say/ 7 iny mother having a way of quoting, for our 
benefit, axioms used against her in her childhood by her own 
mother, which made us think Bonnemaman must have been a most 
disagreeable person. Apart from this, one noticed that the words 
"As my father used to say" strike a chill at all times and in all 


1867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

places. There was another golden rule I have since broken only too 
often, alas! never to speak of one's digestion (unless to the doctor, 
who, as Lady Constance Leslie once remarked, is paid to put tip 
with that style of conversation). This rule came on to the list be- 
cause of an objectionable habit one of our governesses had, of ex- 
tending herself after lunch in an armchair, her legs stuck out stiffly, 
and many cushions rammed into her back her body being thus in 
a straight line at an angle of 45 to the floor, which posture she con- 
sidered favourable to digestion. People who remember their child- 
hood will guess how fiercely we resented this spectacle. 

Under the eye of successive governesses we painfully translated 
into French and German stories such as George Washington say- 
ing: "Father, I cannot tell a lie, I cut down that apple treel" or 
Newton wagging his head at the dog that had just devoured his 
astronomical notes and merely remarking: "O Diamond, Diamond, 
you do not know what mischief you have done!' 7 (which shows he 
was not fit to keep a dog) . These two odious anecdotes might well 
implant in childish bosoms a life-long aversion to the qualities of 
truthfulness and self-command. In short we pursued the usual 
course of instruction in the usual manner. But one thing I will say: 
from Mrs. Markham's History of England, a book recently re-read 
with delight, I learned all the history I knew till the day dawned 
for loving Shakespere, and consider these two together can defy the 
universe as quickeners of an historical sense in the young. 

Between lesson hours, and of course in the holidays, we had heaps 
of fun. Our end of Frimley consisted of a few houses grouped about 
a village green, and if I were to be asked who looms largest in my 
mind during those years I should unhesitatingly say: "Mrs. Hall of 
the tin-shop," the unforgettable owner of a rural emporium where 
everything from sweets to carpets could be got. Shrewd, good-look- 
ing, quick-tempered, as full of kindness as of inother-wit, and a 
mistress of lightning repartee, this true descendant of Mrs. Poyser 
ruled her husband and four big sons, mostly farm labourers, with 
a rod of iron, and spoiled us children to our hearts' content. Heaven 
only knows what amount of sweets she gave away in overweight. 
There too I bought the penny whistles to which we danced Sir 
Roger de Coverley on the ice for our skating days had now 
dawned and let me say that to dance on skates and play that par- 

Impressions that Remained [ 1 867-7 2 

ticularly breathless tune at the same time is one of the most ex- 
hausting feats in the world. 

The village boasted an annual fair, long since gone the way of 
most country fairs, and great fun we found it; but the appearance 
presented by the Green after the merry-go-rounds and coconut 
shies were gone left me with so disagreeable an impression as al- 
most to put me off the fair itself on which theme, if one were a 
poet and classical scholar, a neat Latin ode might be written. 

We always had one, sometimes two donkeys; the other day a 
grey-headed man in Frimley told me he remembered, as schoolboy, 
my riding into the village school right among the children, mounted 
on a black donkey. One of my most cherished possessions is the 
accompanying sketch, already referred to, by our cousin Hugo of a 
drive in the donkey-cart a sketch which incidentally shows that 
structural differences in Mary's and my character, though con- 
cealed by the childish plumpness of our moral outline, did not es- 
cape this shrewd observer's eye. As she sits calm and unmoved, with 
feet neatly placed together in the drab boots with shiny toes I re- 
member so well, her profile indicates the total detachment of a 
young lady out for an airing. That picture has special mention in 
my Will. 

Sometimes we raised, I cannot think how, a team of four, and 
the harness-room was raided for reins and traces; this four-in-hand 
was a grand thing to talk about but not really a success, for one 
had to crawl along the backs of the wheelers in order to thump the 
leaders with the butt end of the whip. I cannot recall either Johnny 
or Mary taking the initiative in these donkey affairs, and Nina, 
whose subsequent adventures would fill tomes, was not then old 
enough to join in ours. In fact all I can remember about her at that 
period was her approaching Violet one day, obviously uneasy in her 
mind, and saying she had something "very funny" to show her in 
the rosery. It turned out to be two expiring frogs which she had 
impaled; ... the hour of confession had struck! 

Frimley Church was two miles off, a modern building, monu- 
ment of some architect's whole-hearted devotion to hideousness, 
the only sympathetic feature being an old-fashioned three-decker 
pulpit, but even that was of deal and relatively new. At each church 
festival the donkey-cart was piled up with whatever might be the 


1867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

appropriate fruits of nature, and off we started to decorate the 
church, the great point being lunch with a kind old neighbour close 
by. I have said that as a tiny child I was terrified of churchyards, but 
at this time they must have had a morbid attraction, or perhaps it 
was under the influence of Hamlet that I loved to watch the sexton 
at work and "think of graves and worms and epitaphs*' as the young 
will and as the old won't. It may be remembered too that in order 
to increase the agony of love I would cheerfully consign my "pas- 
sions" to an early grave, but as regards myself terrors of death 
haunted me throughout my youth, and it was perhaps with some 
vague idea of conjuring the spectre that I persuaded the sexton to 
give me a human bone, which I hid among my collars and handker- 
chiefs. But this relic left me no peace, for I knew its possession was 
sacrilegious, and at last in floods of tears confessed all to my mother. 
I think she was a good deal taken aback, but explained quite gently 
that it would never do, when the Day of Judgment comes, for peo- 
ple's limbs to be scattered about in different places. Evidently she 
had never read, or did not go with, a work called The Last Day, 
from which Mr. Gosse quotes, in his book Father and Son, the fol- 
lowing remarkable verse: 

Now charnels rattle, scattered limbs, and all 
The various bones, obsequious to the call, 
Self-mov'd advance the neck perhaps to meet 
The distant head, the distant legs the feet. 

Meanwhile she undertook to have the bone put back in the place 
it came from, and later informed me that all was well, the sexton 
having assured her it was a sheep's bone, and that he never would 
have dreamed of giving me human remains. I often wonder if this 
was a legend invented by her to soothe my inflamed and suffering 
imagination, or whether the sexton, afraid of getting into trouble, 
really hazarded this improbable yarn. 

I call him the sexton, but he was only an understudy, the real one 
being ninety-six and long past grave-digging, but to the end he stuck 
to his post of clerk. Seated in the lowest box of the three-decker, his 
gold-rimmed spectacles poised on the very tip of his nose, his old 
forefinger travelling across the pages of a huge prayer-book as 
smoothly as the hands of a clock, he would bleat out an amazing 

Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

long "A-ma-a-a-a-n" that would throw rapid performers like Uncle 
Charles out of their stride. People used to come from neighbouring 
parishes to hear old Mr. Weston say "Amen/ 7 

A fantastic scene, which no one who saw it can ever have forgot- 
ten, once took place in the three-decker. As I said, my uncle always 
preached on Christmas morning, but one Christmas there was an- 
other clerical star staying in the parish, who had been asked to take 
the service, and understood he was also to oblige with a sermon. 
He had duly read the Prayers from the middle box, and had just 
opened the door, preparatory to climbing up into the highest or 
preacher's box, when my uncle, who had been sitting robed within 
the altar rails, came sweeping along at his usual rushing pace and 
also made for the top box. They met on the narrow staircase, each 
with a tightly rolled manuscript in his hand, and a rather heated 
altercation took place, neither being of the nature that gives way. 
What with the shape of the three-decker, and the baton-like ap- 
pearance of the manuscripts, there was more than a slight sugges- 
tion of Mr. Punch and the policeman. I cannot remember who won 
the day, though I feel sure it must have been my uncle, but the 
aged clerk, cross-questioned about this scandalous incident, said he 
really didn't know what to make of it; and it probably was too much 
for him, for he died soon afterwards. 

In the summer there were picnics on the canal, and plenty of 
canoeing though none of us could swim. I remember seeing a black 
thing crawling out of the water in our wake which we all thought 
was the retriever, but it turned out to be Nina smothered in canal 
mud. Not long after our arrival at Frimhurst, lawn tennis, preceded 
by badminton, became the fashion, and I think for a time every- 
thing was dropped for that." We no longer built but bought racing 
craft, without neglecting other carpentering. I know I was a better 
hand at it than either Johnny or Maunsell B- . My three-legged 
stools and tables may have been less ambitious than theirs, but they 
neither wobbled nor broke down, and started in me at an early age 
the complete confidence I was to feel later in woman as co-architect 
of the State. 

In the winter there were entertainments at the schools on what- 
ever Saturday in the month had most moon. At one of these I made 
my first public appearance, singing duets at the age of eleven with 

1 867-7 2 J The Smyth Family Robinson 

Mary, aged thirteen, and Mother accompanied us in order to give 
my voice a better chance. Papa was nearly always on the pro- 
gramme, reading poems such as "The Raven/' "We are Seven," 
and extracts from The Siege of Corinth, which the modern rustic 
mind, fed on cheap novelettes and cinema, would not stand for a 
moment, but I think they liked it then. Other neighbouring gentry 
contributed items, and passing talent was enlisted. I remember an 
enormously stout bird of passage who had a habit cultivated by 
many more famous contralti of "singing like a man" as I called it, 
and in this deep chest voice she used to give us a song much in 
vogue called 'The Diver." In case this work has vanished from the 
market, I cannot help quoting the music of the refrain, surely more 
realistic and funny than most things on earth. We sometimes met 

{very slowly) 

Walk-Ing a -lone, walk-ing a-Ion, walk-ing a-Ione in the depths of tha seal 

revellers on the walk home, and tactical manoeuvres were necessary 
to avoid them. Once a local patriarch remarked, as he saluted us 
unsteadily, that really the General ought to get the hedges cut back. 

My first violent religious impression falls in the early days of our 
Frimhurst life, when we were taken by an Evangelical cousin to a 
bazaar at Aldershot for the benefit of soldiers' orphans, got up by 
Miss Daniel, forerunner of the Y.M.C.A.; after which there was to 
be an address by Lord Radstock. We had never been to a bazaar 
before and passionately hated it. Late in the afternoon I remember 
Miss Daniel saying: "Now you will hear something better than 
bazaars/' and presently a dislike of Low Church, conceived in con- 
tact with our cousin, became loathing under the influence of Lord 
RadstocFs manner, expressions, voice, and puffy, white-maggot-like 
physique. I am sure he was a good man, but he made us hate reli- 
gion for the time being. 

Another early Aldershot recollection is Mary and me being taken 
to sing at an R.A. entertainment, when an appropriate variant of 
my father's usual peroration came out with tremendous emphasis as 
addressed to a military audience. Our coachman, an ex-Artillery- 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

man, was in a terrible way lest we should not do ourselves justice, 
exhorting us to hold our heads well up, and not hide our faces with 
the music. ''Remember, Miss Mary/' he said, "it's the hattitude as 
does it." We bore George Taylo/s advice in mind and on musical 
occasions in later life one could not desire a more gratifying re- 
ception than the Colonel's little girls met with. 

As a printed contemporary notice lends relief to very trivial in- 
cidents, I give an extract from Sheldrake's Gazette (still the leading 
Aldershot journal) which I found among old papers: 

On this occasion the Colonel's two fair daughters appeared upon the 
platform to sing a duet, and the applause with which they were greeted 
was indescribable. Each possessing a sweet voice, the effect was exceed- 
ingly telling, the duet being so exquisitely rendered that an enthusi- 
astic encore was called for. Mrs. Smyth accompanied her daughters in 
the first duet, and in the second the younger of the two fair sisters pre- 
sided at the piano. This was the first appearance of ladies on the plat- 
form in this room, and that their noble example may be followed is the 
earnest wish of all who take delight in these excellent entertainments; 
for assuredly nothing is more likely to tend to their success than the of- 
fer of the services of ladies who possess musical talent, and are willing 
to contribute to the entertainment of the soldier during the winter 

Before reading the piece he had selected for Tuesday evening ("The 
Death of Montrose") the noble Colonel, addressing his men, said, 
and he spoke with an earnestness that must have made itself felt in the 
breasts of every one of them: "I read these selections to you, my men, 
because they treat of noble lives, and in the hope that they may be in- 
centives to you in the path of duty. I wish to impress upon you that it is 
expected of us at every time, and in every clime, whether amidst frost 
and snow, or pestilential famine and disease, to endure without mur- 
muring hardships of every kind. Let me also impress upon you strongly 
that when required toface death we should do so without fear, but in 
hope of mercy and forgiveness, and be ever ready to lay down our lives 
for our Queen, our country, and our God." I can hardly describe the 
enthusiasm with which these few words were met, and can attribute it 
to no other cause than the high confidence and esteem placed in their 
Colonel, and the love of their country which exists in the breast of the 
British soldier. [This encomium is no great compliment to the "few 
words" themselves, but one mustn't split hairs.] 


1 867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Of one personality frequently met with during the Christmas 
holidays at children's parties I have an ineffaceable recollection, the 
Conjuror a round, bright-eyed little old man with a shock of grey 
curly hair, who never ceased entreating us to watch him closely; 
''Now don't take your eyes off me, my little dears/' he would say; 
"it's while Tm a talking to you that I'm a deceiving of you' a 
phrase that was adopted by the family. At one time he nearly died, 
and when able to resume business he remarked to my mother, 
pointing to his fat helpmate: 'When I was bad I used to say to 
*er: Tou may get another 'usband, my dear, but you won't get an- 
other conjuror! " 

For my part, as soon as I realized I should never guess how these 
tricks are done, conjuring rather exasperated me, my feeling then 
as now being: what's the fun of not understanding? Or again, why 
crack your brain about something you know is really quite simple? 
For which reason I am never tempted by the later works of Mr. 
Henry James. Montaigne was of the same way of thinking, and 
says somewhere that when he comes to an obscure paragraph he 
makes one or two "charges" at it, and then, if the meaning still 
eludes him, throws away that book for good and all. 

CHAPTER IX. 1867-72 

-LN ox long after our arrival at Frimhurst, Alice was presented and 
came out. There were five years between her and Mary, and since, 
as I said, there were four between Nina and me, Mary and I were 
in a schoolroom group by ourselves. For this reason I can remember 
nothing about Alice's proceedings, with one momentous exception 
her first proposal, or anyhow the first at which we, so to speak, 
assisted. There was a certain young soldier with very pink cheeks 
and a strange habit of wearing velveteen coats an assiduous visitor 
whose attentions became marked. One day we saw him leaving the 
house in evident agitation, and when, with the tact of younger 

Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

sisters, we instantly rushed into the drawing-room, lo! there was 
Alice, supported by mother, being plied with smelling-salts! In Jane 
Austen's day this was the correct attitude for a girl of sensibility on 
tender occasions, and to that epoch Alice belonged by education 
and temperament; but Mary and I were early samples of the com- 
ing generation and poor Alice never heard the last of that touching 
tableau. She declares to this day it was a figment of our imagina- 
tions, but it was not, and I am glad to have seen this sort of thing 
with my own eyes, for we shall never see it again. 

Whether forerunners or not, Mary and I were still considered 
very quaint children, as in the Sidcup days, and were infuriated by 
a strange young lady who called to her brother through the win- 
dow: "O Lionel, do come in and hear these funny children talk, 7 ' 
whereupon we of course fell silent, as self-respecting children would. 
Neither of us was in the least shy, but when in the presence of one 
of my "passions/' I was liable, under the stress of emotion, to ex- 
traordinary contortions; such as standing on the outside of my feet, 
swaying to and fro, brushing the palm of one hand violently against 
the other in mid-air, as if one were flint and the other steel antics 
that Mary, who knew the cause, eyed with scornful astonishment. 

It is to be hoped, more especially as these memoirs are pointedly 
dedicated to people with sense of humour, that no one will imagine 
we chronically disapproved of each other or were for ever compet- 
ing and quarrelling. Like all healthy-minded children we had our 
little rivalries and ambitions, a large stock of cocksureness as to who 
was in the right . . . and both of us had tempers. Hence, though 
our differences were no longer settled with knives and forks, there 
were plenty of rows, but as a matter of fact we were devoted to each 
other, and so closely identified in people's minds that, much to our 
annoyance, our parents would sometimes say: "Mary and Ethel, 
shut the door." Believers in the saint-like children met with in 
books, who probably view their own vanished childhood in the 
same unreal light, may not be of my opinion, but I hold that no 
great attachment is possible between young growing things with- 
out these clashes of temperament, and that you are all the better 
friends afterwards. Thus it was at any rate in our case. 

It had always been an axiom in the family that from earliest 
years Mary had been drawn by me into tomboyish ways that really 


1867-72] The Smyth Family Robinson 

were foreign to her nature. I think this is probably true; anyhow, as 
time went on, boys who began by being attracted by my independ- 
ence and proficiency in games always ended by forsaking me in 
order to minister to Mary's more feminine helplessness buckling 
on her skates for her, or in response to a piteous "Help me! I'm 
giddy!" flying to her rescue among the higher branches of the old 
cherry tree. I remember various incidents connected with faithless 
boy lovers of mine, but think that in all this I was playing a part, 
doing what I knew was the correct thing. Now and again a very real 
feeling of mortification may have swept over me as I saw my ad- 
mirers succumbing to the charms of Mary, but from the first my 
most ardent sentiments were bestowed on members of my own 
sex, and the love-affairs with boys were but imitative and trashy, 
I fear. 

The other day I came upon a draft of a letter addressed to a very 
dull Harrow boy who afterwards took Holy Orders. Oddly enough 
all my admirers became schoolmasters, or clergymen, or both; per- 
haps I was the one wild adventure of coast-hugging spirits who im- 
mediately afterwards reverted to type. This particular lover seems, 
however, to have reverted prematurely, and the letter began: "O 
Willie, Willie! how could you deceive a poor girl as you have me?" 
which shows that my style was formed either on Shakespere or 
the nursery maid, who under these circumstances use identical lan- 

Humble as is the mood reflected in this letter, my father and 
most of the relations rightly considered that I had an overweening 
opinion of myself; in fact Papa said I reminded him of Lord John 
Russell, of which notoriously conceited statesman the Times re- 
marked that he would be quite willing to take command of the 
Channel Fleet at a moment's notice. No doubt the parallel was 
justified, and I may have deserved the plentiful snubbing I got, but 
no amount of it ever shook my conviction that I was more musical 
than they had any idea of. For instance my mother and I were 
once hunting in some music books for a certain composition, but 
whereas she played the first bar of each piece in her book with one 
hand, I just gave a glance and turned the page of mine. "Take care, 
you'll miss it," cried she, and I said to myself: "She doesn't know as 
much as I!" but didn't tell her so because I loved her a rare 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

case of abstention from boasting which astonished me myself, and 
which I cannot help mentioning. 

I have said that she lost her beautiful voice long before the usual 
age, but in the earlier Frimhurst days, when she was between forty- 
three and forty-five, she still sang occasionally, and one of her songs, 
my father's favourite, "Of what is the old man thinking?" had a 
charming melody, her perfect phrasing of which struck even me, a 
child. But the song I liked best really a duet, only I never heard 
it in that form was a certain little masterpiece all on the tonic, 
dominant, and sub-dominant (a great test) full of accent and 
fun as to both music and words. It was called, I think, "Mr. and 
Mrs. Smith," and illustrated to perfection H. B/s theory that 
"English married life bases on snarling." Mrs. Smith had appar- 
ently expressed a wish to go to Brighton, and the ball opens with 
her husband's comments on this proposal. I cannot refrain from 
giving the first four bars and some of the verses, the last three lines 
of which are always repeated. 

Misses Smith, up - on my word, it is really too ab surd ! I de* 


' 'j'^rsr 

clare there's no one like you ei - tner far 

(Ma. SMITH) 

Mrs. Smith, upon my word, 

You are really too absurd! 
I declare there's no one like you either far or near! 

Winter, Summer, Autumn, Spring, 

You're for ever on the wing, 
Never quiet for a moment, Mrs. Smith my dear! 


1 867-7 2 ] ^ e Smyth Family Robinson 


my love, now in your conscience 
How can you talk such nonsense! 

I declare your little judgment isn't o - ver clear; 

There's a time of year that carries 

Ev'ry soul to Rome or Paris, 
And I only mentioned Brighton, Mr. Smith my dean 

After a stanza or two which I have forgotten: 

Then your bonnets, caps, and curls, 

Combs, and trinkets for the girls, 
Your Assembly Rooms and boxes on the Pre mier tier 

Ton my life it's very fanny, 

Not a thought about the money . . . 
Where the devil should it come from, Mrs. Smith my dear? 

(MRS. SMITH, sarcastically} 

And pray^where are all your schemes, 

All your million-making dreams, 
Your subscription men, your Aldermen, your no ble peer? 

If of all youve let them sack 

You ever see a shilling back, 
Why Tm very much mistaken, Mr. Smith my dear! 

I cannot remember Mr. Smith's counter to this, which is to the 
effect that his restless spouse seems to prefer any place to the cfo 
mestic hearth, but I wish I could convey an idea of the deadly point 
my mother put into Mrs. Smith's final thrust with just a suspi- 
cion of tears at the repetition of the last three lines: 


1 don't ask, Sir, -where you room, 
'But this I know, at home 

It is very little of you that we see or hear! 

And where you choose to be 

Is a mystery to me . \ . 
Why the fact is quite notorious, Mr. Smith my dear! 

7 1 

Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

The concluding verse is a real duet, both singing at the same 
time, and all I remember of it is the eminently sensible conclusion 
they come to in the last line: 

So -we'd better both be quiet, < ^ > Smith my dear! 

I would give anything to meet with this extraordinary English 
bit of music again as English as Bishop and Sullivan, harking 
back far beyond the former, and yet thoroughly Victorian. Real 

By this time I had taken to composing chants and hymns, music 
being connected in my mind, in spite of the Smiths, mainly with 
religion a well-known English malady. And to each of these pro- 
ductions the name of a "passion" was given. Our duets had now 
become a feature at home dinner parties, Mary having a very pretty 
voice and a great idea of delivery. One thing I well remember 
wondering how I knew by instinct exactly where she, or other 
singers I accompanied, would be likely to "go flat" (for of course 
one interval was as easy to me as another) and what note, empha- 
sized in time, would correct the tendency. In later years this mys- 
tery of critical intervals became clear to me. 

There was one musical torture of my youth, however, from which 
no relief could be obtained. Maddened by a reiterated wrong note, 
or what my friend Lady Ponsonby once called "foolish basses," I 
would cry: "I can't do this sum if you go on playing G natural; it's 
G sharp!" And Mary would calmly reply: "I prefer playing G natu- 
ral," and go on doing it. I consider both parties in this matter 
blameless and no apologies need be offered for either, but I do 
blame the wretched governesses, who, themselves incapable of dis- 
tinguishing wrong from right notes, would tell me to mind my own 
business and get on with my sum. 

Now, in extreme cases my mother knew very well when wrong 
notes were being played, but having survived many years of English 
drawing-room music she bore it with relative equanimity, and the 
rest of my world were in the same position as our governesses. Real- 
izing which I became more and more certain that I was in a differ- 


1 867-7 2 ] The Smyth Family Robinson 

ent class, musically, to my surroundings, and that knowledge did 

its slow work in my heart, as subsequent events were to prove. 

In some ways I think we two were precocious children, but on 
one subject I speak for myself, not knowing how it was with 
Mary I was very innocent. When I was about eleven, one awful 
day, after overhearing scraps of a conversation, or perhaps enlight- 
ened in a flash by a line of poetry, I suddenly gathered that having 
babies and embracing were mysteriously connected; and despair 
fell upon me, for shortly before I had, without enthusiasm, allowed 
a boy I rather hated to kiss me in the rosery! Like every child in a 
large family I was aware you could not tell for a long time if a baby 
was on the way or not, and for two or three months I would sur- 
reptitiously examine my figure in the glass and fancy the worst. 
What agonizing suspense of after years can compare with that of a 
child thus tortured, unable to confide in anyone, and wondering as 
I did, should the dreaded thing happen, whether I would drown 
myself in the deep water near the lock, or lay my head on the rails 
perhaps in the tunnel, where people would think it had been an 
accident! It is because the memory of that terror is as fresh to me 
now as if it had all happened yesterday that I am sure children 
ought to be more enlightened on such matters than they are. Not 
being a mother I fortunately need not bother my head about the 
best way to do it. 

This was of course a case of innocent imagination run riot, but I 
remember another excess of imagination, in other words one of 
those lies children tell in order to make themselves important, 
which, though no harm was done, troubled my conscience for 
months and months. The son of one of our neighbours was sup- 
posed to be courting a pretty visitor (whom by the by he afterwards 
married), and one day I reported that I had seen him kiss her in 
the garden a proceeding I no longer considered fraught with 
possible tragedy, but merely reprehensible. Every one at home was 
thrilled with excitement, and presently I would have given my head 
to confess it was an invention, but could not summon up the requi- 
site moral courage. Such were my sufferings, however, that soon 
afterwards I registered a vow, if only because romancing is so 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

easy, to adopt a line of strict truthfulness in the future. And that 
line I have stuck to ever since possibly with more zeal than 

I have said that the whole course of my life was determined, little 
as she realized it, by one of our governesses. When I was twelve a 
new victim arrived who had studied music at the Leipzig Con- 
servatorium, then in the hey-day of its reputation in England; for 
the first time I heard classical music and a new world opened up 
before me. Shortly after, a friend having given me Beethoven's 
Sonatas, I began studying, the easier of these and walked into the 
new world on my own feet. Thus was my true bent suddenly re- 
vealed to me, and I then and there conceived the plan, carried out 
seven years later, of study at Leipzig and giving up my life to 
music. This intention was announced to everyone and of course no 
one took it seriously, but that troubled me not at all. It seemed to 
me a dream that I knew would come true in the fullness of time, 
but I was in no hurry as to the when. Alas, all my life I have paid 
for those seven wasted years! I want to make it clear that this was 
no mere passing idea such as children entertain and let go again; 
when I came out I was not exactly faithless but slack about it dur- 
ing a few months, for reasons I will explain by and by, but the de- 
cision was taken and cast in iron once and for all. , 

My father's Aldershot command came to an end in 1872. At that 
time, owing to a block in the promotion list, several old Indian 
officers of his seniority were given the option of retiring on a hand- 
some pension with the rank of General; and as his family was large, 
and his next command probably in India, he closed with the offer, 
sold his Cheshire home, which was no longer in the country, and 
bought Frimhurst. 

It was a sagacious choice of an abiding-place for an old soldier, 
well within reach of contemporaries still in the Army and what 
I think he appreciated still more, old subalterns of his, now some 
way up the ladder, who simply adored him. On the stretch of heath- 
land outside our very gates, where most sham fights began, passed, 
or ended, his own branch of the service could be watched, dashing 
up and down the heather hills the guns at any angle you please 


i86y-j2] The Smyth Family Robinson 

over banks, ditches, and gravel pits; and not being one of those 
who think everything is going to the dogs since their own time, 
nothing interested him more than mechanical and other improve- 
ments. Last but not least, unless the wind was dead in the wrong 
direction, you could take Greenwich time from the nine-thirty p.m. 
Aldershot gun. He generally dozed a little over his Times after 
dinner, but at the faintest report would wake up, saying, 'There's 
the gun!" pull out his watch, and glance at the clock on the chim- 
ney-piece (under which it was the most stringent rule of the estab- 
lishment to put the keys, after locking up the wine or the post- 

The house was enlarged, the cost exceeding the estimate by a 
good deal we were never allowed to know exactly how much 
and a gravel lawn-tennis court was added, all too near a certain 
unpleasant overflow, so that when the wind was in a certain quar- 
ter there was no forgetting his celebrated theory about "a good 
open stink." 

Being better off now we kept more horses; fences were set up in 
"the little field," and over these we were allowed, nay, urged by my 
father to lark to our hearts' content Mary was not particularly keen 
on this amusement, but I remember, after she had twice fallen off, 
his insisting on a third attempt, and amid shouted injunctions to 
"sit back and give him his head/' she sailed over in safety and was 
much praised, as indeed she deserved. A more ideal parent as re- 
gards encouraging his children to take risks cannot be imagined, 
and throughout the unending series of carriage accidents for which 
we gradually became notorious, his first, I had almost written his 
only, question was: "Is the horse damaged?" 

He now developed an interest in the farmyard, to which the 
niceties of flower-gardening would have been sacrificed but for 
Mother, who, though she appreciated rich cream and new-laid eggs, 
objected to hens scratching in borders and cows rambling on lawns. 
There was a certain Jersey cow that gave more milk than any other 
two cows, but only on condition of leading an untrammelled exist- 
ence; many a morning at family prayers, the reader being the only 
person who commanded a view of the rhododendrons, an agitated 
whisper of "Boy cowl" would be addressed by Papa to the backs 
of the kneeling servants, upon which the page rose and stole away 


Impressions that Remained [1867-72 

on tiptoe. And presently the Lord's Prayer was punctuated by 
sounds of admonishment, reinforced with whacks. 

That Jersey cow was a character what in the strange work- 
ing-class slang of today would be called "chronic." Even in the 
depths of winter she rebelled against the cowhouse and insisted on 
roaming in deep snow, wrapped up in sacking. One winter she ap- 
peared in a new costume, a beautiful Aubusson carpet, by no means 
worn out, but which my mother had wearied of and relegated pre- 
maturely to the sheds, where it was appropriated by the cowman 
not for domestic use, but for the Jersey. The pattern was all sheaves 
of corn and wreaths of flowers, and years afterwards we learned that 
the children believed the idea was to persuade the cow it was sum- 
mer and induce her to yield more milk. 

I fancy some of our governesses were scandalized at the vivid in- 
terest taken by the whole family in certain incidents of farmyard 
life. This tender-hearted cowman was a Crimean veteran of middle 
age, whose snow-white head was accounted for by the sympathetic 
legend that it had been frozen during the campaign. But as he 
shared the weakness of most old soldiers of his day, and as the cow- 
doctor was none other than the patriarch who demanded one Sat- 
urday night that the hedges should be cut back, it is not surprising 
that our cows often died at critical moments in their career. I re- 
member one evening the page rushing in after dinner to say the calf 
was bom and the cow very bad, whereupon all of us except Mother, 
whom nothing short of the house being on fire would drive out 
of doors at such an hour, flew in a body to the cowhouse. The scene 
was illumined by guttering lanterns held by the two experts, who, 
swaying backwards and forwards, were solemnly shaking their heads 
and murmuring in husky duet: "It is not in Our Hands." . . . 
Alas! it had been, and the poor cow paid the penalty. . . . And I 
remember a less tragic sight that probably would not astonish stu- 
dents of natural history as much as it did us the baby chickens 
of a non-domestically minded hen cuddling up in the lower manger 
against the stable cat, who mothered them jealously for as long as 
they would let her. 

To complete the list of my father's home activities as country 
gentleman I will only add that on off days he gave much thought 
to the kitchen garden, and of course insisted on the oldest peas and 

1872-73] The Smyth Family Robinson 

beans being pulled first a well-known madness of all green- 
growers (I coin this word with conviction). But occasionally my 
mother would upset everything by sailing into the garden and im- 
periously pointing out certain vegetables, and that night at dinner 
there would be a minor domestic scene. One feels certain that this 
is "exactly what went on between Adam and Eve after their expul- 
sion from Eden, if not before. 

Lastly, as has been said elsewhere, it was now that he threw him- 
self into county work, with an energy and thoroughness which has 
remained a tradition in that part of Surrey to this day. 

CHAPTER X. 1872 and 1873 

1 HAVE hinted that the behaviour of Mary and myself did not al- 
ways give satisfaction, one of our habits that roused disapproval 
being the innocent one of keeping diaries. We made rather a mys- 
tery of it, and I suppose that was the crime. At length, goaded on 
probably by aunts and cousins, the authorities gave a hint that the 
habit must be dropped, and what was worse, that the diaries might 
possibly be confiscated. Thereupon we decided to bury them, and 
I always think our choice of a cemetery was peculiar. Of course we 
kept rabbits, and inside the rabbit run I had constructed one of my 
too, too solid tables and a stool or so. Here many pages of the 
diaries were written, and perhaps that is the reason why one dark 
night we committed them to earth, coffined in a biscuit-box, in that 
particular place, determined to resist to the death any attempt to 
make us divulge the spot. We were in grim earnest about it, feeling, 
I think rightly, that this would be unwarrantable interference with 
the rights of the individual. Possibly our parents came to some such 
conclusion themselves or perhaps sense of humour prevailed; any- 
how the diaries were left to rot in peace. 
One of our elder cousins, Hugo J/s sister, wrote and dedicated to 


Impressions that Remained [1872-73 

her godchild Mary such a charming little poem on this incident 
that I am delighted to find Mary still possesses it ? and give it here: 

Oh Mary! Mary! quite contrary! 

How does your garden grow? 
Written leaves,, not rotten leaves 

Are beneath that sod, I know! 

You've planted the strangest plant, I hear, 

Youve sown the strangest seed 
Now, will it bloom a fragrant flower 

Or will it rise a weed? 

Will those pallid leaflets ever shoot 

Unfed, uncheered by you? 
Or can they grow without a root? 

Oh say, what can they do? 

O tell me if those leaves will blow, 

And will the fruit be fair? 
And will the Spring's first gentle breath 

Awake the spirit there? 

Or will the ever-falling rains, 

The balmy evening dews 
Efface, instead of brightening, 

Their well-known inky hues? 

The summer zephyr could not wake 

The life within those leaves, 
Nor morning sun, nor noontide ray 

Nor breezy dewy eves! 

The sunshine of thine eyes alone 

Could reach that plant so rare, 
Thy hand alone unfold the leaves 

And read the record there! 


1872-73] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Flowers from their stalk divided 

Droop, fall, and fade away . . . 
Diaries, from their writers parted 

Must they not decay? 

Months afterwards we privately exhumed the diaries, but by that 
time some other craze held us in its grip and the charm was gone. 
For my part, disgusted by the unsavoury appearance of my heart's 
records, I threw them on the fire; and it is to be hoped that we both 
of us gave up at the same time a habit to which we were secretly 
addicted, of being found in becoming attitudes on sofas and in 

Meanwhile the governess question had become a complicated 
one, owing to the fact that the younger members of the family 
were growing up and had to be educated too. A supplementary in- 
structress was tried but it was not a success, for No. i considered it 
beneath her dignity to associate with nursery governesses, and No. 
2 spent more time in weeping and retailing her grievances to her 
pupils than in teaching them the three R's. In despair my parents 
began to wonder whether Mary and I had not better be sent to 

The idea was not readily entertained, for at that time it was 
not considered the thing to let your girls associate with Heaven 
knows whom under a strange roof. As usual, when in difficulties, 
my mother consulted her neighbour Mrs. Longman, whose hus- 
band, head of the great publishing firm, built and lived at Farn- 
borough Hill (since bought by the Empress Eugenie) and whose 
family consisted, like ours, of six girls and two boys. This friend 
warmly recommended a school at Putney, kept by an old governess 
of theirs, which put quite a different complexion on the matter. 
Also, when approached by my mother, Miss D. thought well to in- 
timate casually that among her pupils were the daughter of a 
Baronet and the daughters of two Honourables. Thus it came to 
p ass as we were told, because we were so unmanageable, but 
really because there was nothing else to be done that we were 
packed off to school in 1872. 

On the day of our departure Bob, who was then about five, re- 


Impressions that Remained [1872-73 

members us sitting side by side on a sofa in the bow-window, very- 
erect and serious, in long black coats with broad braid, and mauve 
scarfs tightly tied in a huge bow under our chins, the long ends 
floating. It was all very solemn, and he felt sorry for us without 
knowing why. 

At that time all we had to show for large expenditure in the 
schoolroom was a mere smattering of French, German, and the 
usual subjects, the most valuable part of our education a part 
moreover which had nothing to do with governesses being the 
knowledge of the Bible Anglicans acquire automatically, and a love 
of Shakespere the last- thanks mainly to Aunt Susan, who in her 
cold way had strong literary proclivities and a special devotion to 
Shakespere, which she passed on to Johnny. He it was who first 
urged me to read Julius Cczsar and kindled a life-long passion which 
has known no ups and downs. All schoolmistresses begin by ad- 
dressing a remark of awful affability to new pupils, and Miss D/s to 
me was: "I hear you are quite a Shakespere scholar!" 

My school life is a sort of block-memory; I see few details, but 
of course "passions" raged all the time. There were walks in long 
procession of two and two; once we were led, my heart beating 
furiously, past the house where I knew Jenny Lind lived. From allu- 
sions to her triumphs in old volumes of Punch., and my mother's 
descriptions of her supreme art, she had long been one of my hero- 
ines, and if anyone had told me that one day I should become fairly 
intimate with this striking and terrifying personality I should have 
gone off my head on the spot. The more usual thing was vague 
rambles across Putney and Roehampton Commons, and I remem- 
ber the pang of joy and longing that always shot through me at one 
particular spot, then unspoiled by villas. It was a plateau-edge 
where we always turned off to the left homeward a dip in the 
road, the yellow of the gravel where it cut through the hill, and a 
blue distant expanse of happy lands where people walked at their 
own pace and went home when they felt inclined. Masters ("ex- 
tras") came from London to teach us music, drawing, astronomy, 
and chemistry. I remember the chemistry classes best, because of 
the breathless excitement as to whether the experiments would 
come off; sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't, but there 
never was any doubt as to why schoolboys call this branch of sci- 


187273! The Smyth Family "Robinson 

ence "stinks." The master had one distressing peculiarity, a drop 
hung for ever from the tip of his red nose; we used to wonder 
whether constant stooping over jars of smoking chemicals makes 
noses insentient. 

The music master was a black-bearded, spectacled little German 
Jew, Herr A. S., and all the busts of Pericles and other great men 
in my Smaller History of Greece were furnished with spectacles, 
had their beards inked, and thus became Herr A. S. By this time I 
undertook the music in our afternoon home services on Sundays as 
a matter of course, composed, and made the girls learn, chants and 
hymns, which bore the names of adored units in the choir my 
old system and generally imposed myself musically. Hence poor 
Herr A. S. thought he saw a unique opportunity for spreading his 
reputation as composer, and L'Alouette, Le Reve, and all the rest 
of them, French names being in favour because of the success of 
La Priere dune Vierge, were hopefully unpacked. I rather fancy it 
was part of his contract that parents should have a certain number 
of these works booked to them at face value. But I wouldn't even 
look at them a fact he recalled to me with infinite good hu- 
mour in after years, when, an old, asthmatic wreck in retirement, 
he used to struggle up from the country to hear my work performed. 
And indeed is it likely that one already deep in Schumann, Schu- 
bert, and Beethoven would add Heir A. S. to the list? 

The whole school, except those whose parents struck at the ex- 
pense, were taken up to Mr. Kuhe's yearly Grand Benefit Concert; 
there for the only time in my life I heard Patti, and, strange in- 
comprehensible fact, what struck me most was her coquettish way 
of trotting on to the platform, followed by a display of ecstatic 
surprise at the plaudits that lifted the roof an experience as com- 
mon to her as the sun rising. The other day, genuinely over- 
whelmed by her incomparable rendering of "Voi che sapete" on 
the gramophone, it was bitter to reflect I had once heard the real 
woman and cannot recall the ghost of a thrill. Was it my childish 
contempt for florid music she sang something by Donizetti, I 
think combined with insane dislike of affectation even as inno- 
cent and ritualistic as hers, or does some spiteful god amuse himself 
by turning us deaf and stupid for a while? . . . We were also taken 
to the Royal Academy Exhibition, and again a blank in my mem- 

Impressions that, Remained [ 1 872-7 3 

ory occurs, to account for which no occult agency need be sought. 
To the National Gallery we were not taken, which sufficiently char- 
acterizes girls' schools of that period. 

On Sundays we were marched to Putney Church, and compared 
our personal appearance with that of a rival school on the other side 
of the chancel. I think we were all in love with the cherub-faced 
high-born curate, less so with another clergyman, who, I fear, took 
more than a pastoral interest in some of the prettier members of 
his flock; anyhow we knew Miss D. had reasons for making sure that 
one of the staff should be present during his religion classes. He pre- 
pared me for Confirmation and I cordially disliked him, but the 
great thing that was to happen during that spring of 1873 dwarfed 
all thoughts of any imperfections in the agent. 

I hope I have shown how full of brightness and interest our 
lives were; yet looking back and asking myself whether on the whole 
happiness or unhappiness had predominated in mine, I have no 
hesitation in answering, unhappiness. How should it be otherwise? 
If I was violent enough outwardly to be called "the stormy petrel" 
it was nothing to the violence within. Ambitious, wilful, torn by 
storms of anger, despair, and love, feeling that somehow I was of 
different stuff to the boys and girls I associated with, and had that 
in me that not even my mother, who loved me dearly and knew 
me so well in some ways, ever suspected, there was no one to help 
me into the path I afterwards found for myself with so much diffi- 
culty. I was merely considered an exceptionally naughty rebellious 
girl who required snubbing; no one saw anything there that merited 
encouragement. I had fits of religion, and like all people of a cer- 
tain temperament had always been prone to incoherent, anguished 
prayer, after which I knew peace for a while; but these moods 
passed, and back rushed the old stress and misery. 

Then came my Confirmation; and when the Bishop laid his 
hands on me a solemn moment I remember, strange to say, more 
vividly than my first Communion I believed, as young people 
will believe at such times as long as this earth shall endure, that 
now my troubles were over once and for all. And yet in a book a 
school friend had just given me I might have found a warning that 
this could not be hoped for, that if even a small modicum oftme's 


1872-73] The Smyth Family Robinson 

early fervour can be retained for ordinary working use one must be 
thankful. 1 And of course the inevitable happened, but the spirit 
of those Confirmation days never seemed to me incomprehensible 
and impossible to recapture as it does to some. Nor was it, for since 
then I have been through similar periods; none is quite like the last,, 
but the insweeping sea is always the same a sea that lifts and does 
not drown. 

On one point I have never been able to see clearly. My Imitation 
is deeply scored in chapters such as the ones on "Inordinate Affec- 
tions" or "Private Love hindereth most from the Chiefest Good/' 
and when I came to know Greek art I instantly understood that 
excess and perfection are enemies; yet on the other hand this world 
and the million worlds around us live by fire . . . ! There is a men- 
tal movement H. B. called "going back to your top"; if you pro- 
pound to a child a problem beyond his intelligence, he will stare 
at you for a moment and quietly go on with his game. After medi- 
tating the subject of passion versus balance I always go back to my 
top with a sense of peculiar relief. . . . 

In connection with this part of my school life I must mention 
one absurd incident that assumed for me the proportions of a 
tragedy at the time. Three days after my Confirmation the most 
adored of all my school friends, a very religious girl, extremely High 
Church like myself and with a face like a sheep, met my old aver- 
sion Lord Radstock at a garden party, and a week later became a 
Plymouth Sister! . . . Instinctively I felt that this dreadful con- 
version was not unconnected with the fact that Lord Radstock 
was probably the first peer she had ever met in her life, and down" 
toppled the idol from her pedestal. I was at heart a little snob my- 
self in those days and may have done her injustice . . . but I 
fancy notl 

On the whole Mary and I agree that we learned a good deal at 
Miss D/s, but I still think among the most important things were 
being taught how to darn stockings, and how to put clean linen 
back in the drawers that is, at the bottom of the pile a princi- 
ple I insisted on when I came to have a house of my own. As for 
darning, it is more than needlework; it is bridge-building, it is house- 
building (for thus you lath and plaster a ceiling), it is gardening 
* Imitation of Christ, Part iii, Chapter viii. 


Impressions that Remained [1872-73 

(for thus you make something grow where there was nothing) . In 
short it has the charm of all jobs that begin with the formula: "take 
a hole/' But I never do it if I can help it. 

Memories of home life now assumed a passionate aspect of 
course, and on this theme we wrote words to a tune then in vogue 
a tune so jolly and shapely that I think it must be by Offen- 
bach. This song became a great feature in our repertory, and the 
last verse, "to be sung slowly and sadly/' ran: 

But soon -we shall return 

To that horrible Mango Chutnee 
We eat with mutton cold 
In our school which is at Putney . . . 
Oh dear! Oh dear! 
Let's shed a silent tear! 

Chorus (at a cheerful pace) 
But hurrah, "hurrah, our lessons are past! 
Hurrah, hurrah for freedom at last! 
Hurrah, hurrah, though time flies fast 

We'll make of it all we can! 

Let me say chutnee was not dragged in unlawfully; we really did 
have it twice a week, and that it happens to rhyme with Putney is a 

Our school books, many of which I still have, are scored with 
home souvenirs. Before we were exiled we had made hot friends 
with a young soldier, Walter Lindsay by name, whose regiment, a 
very smart one we were glad to think, was under canvas on the 
Chobham Ridges. He was really a dear fellow, as the fact of his 
preferring to all other company that of a couple of children proves, 
and I have a huge atlas on the blank sheets of which are no fewer 
than fifteen portraits of our hero as viewed by my adoring eyes. He 
was very good-looking, but his nose was certainly too long for the 
canons of perfect beauty . . . and young artists do not mince mat- 
ters. Years and years after, I met him again still very good-look- 
ing and father of one of the most beautiful girls in London and 
of course told him about the atlas, which so delighted him that 
I promised to do him tracings of some of the portraits. But when I 

1872-73] The Smyth Family Robinson 

produced them a grave look passed over his face, and I realized with 
secret amusement that he was upset at his nose having assumed 
such proportions even in the eyes of a child! . . . Truly vanity is 
not a feminine monopoly. 

At this period Mary and I were much given to writing poetry, 
and I still possess a collection of my plays and verses. Anything 
more totally devoid of talent cannot be imagined; there is but little 
sense of rhythm in the verse, the funny poems are dreadfully arch, 
and the serious ones insufferably sententious and commonplace. In 
my case this phase started before I went to school, in an effusion 
which I overheard a misguided relation say was "remarkable/' and 
which celebrated a phenomenon that really was remarkable 
Northern Lights of unexampled brilliancy. If only as a warning to 
other young poets with indulgent and uncritical relations, here it is: 


I have seen the bright heavens in many an aspect 
When sparkling in starlight and beaming with light? 

But I never have seen it so gloriously brilliant 
As when the Aurora is shining at night. 

I have watched its faint ray growing stronger and stronger. 

Until its rich crimson is lighting the sky, 
I have watched it grow fainter and fainter each moment 

Until it has faded to darkness on high. 

We must think, when we see this great work of our Maker, 
What poor feeble creatures we are in His sight, 

For who under Heaven could make the Aurora 

To shine like the day in the midst of the night? . . * 

It is meant to remind us of God our Creator, 
To show us our weakness compared to His might! 

(I myself thought this tacking on of two extra lines rather good.) 

The poems of the Putney period show some slight improvement; 

there are a few verses on "Confirmation" which are really sincere 


Impressions that Remained [1872-73 

and not unmusical; I expect they were more than directly inspired 
by The Christian Year. I had not re-met this poem when I wrote 
about my Confirmation, and am interested to see there is no refer- 
ence to the Holy Communion, and that the best verse begins: 

When the Bishop now is laying 
His hands upon us, praying . . . 

the sort of incident which gives a memoir-writer confidence. 
Most of the other effusions, whether in comic vein, lampooning our 
masters and mistresses, or darkly tragic, are in the cantering metre 
of the "Aurora Borealis"; perhaps this was the influence of Byron, 
whom I greatly admired, or possibly it was an inheritance of Bonne- 
maman and her "Gipsy King/' But there was one case that evi- 
dently nothing but blank verse could meet. 

(A Fragment) 

And thus we stake our lives on one great love f 

And thus our hopes are shattered when we find 

That earthly love hath Summer, and a Spring . . . 

Alas that Love should have a Winter tool . . . 

I staked my all upon the raft of Love 

And peacefully it floated down Life's stream. 

But then Life's river is a changing stream; 

Sometimes 'tis rapid, sometimes slowly winds 

Through pastures green, with flowers dipping in 

Their Hushing faces when the noonday sun 

Waxes too strong. Sometimes through mountain gorge 

It tears and foams, rending the trees and bushes, 

Waking a thousand echoes in the rocks . . . 

My raft was floating onward peaceably 
It struck upon a rock a crash it sank! 
O cruel rock! for now my heart is torn 
From all it held the dearest upon earth . . . 
She cares not for my love . . . and so I mourn 
In Solitude! 


1872-73] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Sometimes I wonder if, in a future state, what artists look on as 
their matured masterpieces will strike them as the above "poems'* 
strike their author today. 

This literary phase of ours resulted in one incident more ludi- 
crous even than our own productions. During one summer holi- 
days Fred Longman, a cultured nephew of our neighbour's, lent us 
a periodical in which was what he, and of course we, considered a 
wonderful poem. The subject was a priest's love-affair and it seemed 
to us the last word of tragic passion. Mary and I at once copied it 
out, but somehow or other the matter came to the ears of our 
elders. Mr. Longman, appealed to as an incontestable authority, 
pronounced the verdict I remember his exact words that the 
thing was "revolting in thought and disgusting in expression," and 
profuse apologies were tendered for his nephew's indiscretion. Fore- 
seeing that we should be called upon to destroy our copies, we actu- 
ally spent the whole of a stormy night committing the poem to 
memory, aided by flashes of lightning which illumined the doomed 
manuscripts whether because this seemed the most suitable illu- 
mination or because we had no candle, I am unable to say. Thus it 
is possible to summon the first stanza from the shades of oblivion. 

I was a priest and I should not love her, 

I was a man and my love was hers! 

Turn it and turn it from cover to cover, 

The book of my soul no more avers 

In my deed's defence than this one thing; 

That Love held my will in his fierce hot hand,. 

And swayed it, and shook it, and tore it asunder 

As your tropic earthquake tears the land, 

As your lightning leaps with his voice of thunder 

To smite the trees which were green in Spring, 

And grind the spires of granite to sand! 

[In those days the possessive pronoun before earthquake and 
lightning puzzled me; "why your?" I asked myself. And nowadays, 
having grasped the rhetorical nature of that pronoun, I ask, still 
more insistently: "Why your?" . . .] 

Impressions that Remained [187 2-7 3 

To return to the priest. Passing from generalities to facts, he now 
tells us that "oft when the organ did grumble and groan for the 
puny human fingers that vexed it" (I thought that bit wonderful) , 
he would invoke "the forms and faces of women that dwell in the 
seats whence the poor young angels fell." Of these he remarks "a 
body each had, but Heaven unsexed it/' and needless to say such 
anemic visions had no chance against flesh-and-blood realities like 
"my lady with rich warm lips, and love in her face and finger tips, 
and great grey eyes that looked out from afar, and the great arched 
neck, made, sure, for caressing" (these must have been the passages 
Mr. Longman had in mind when he used the term "disgusting in 
expression/' for I cannot recall anything more ardent) , And so this 
tragic affair went on, accompanied by "the moan of the selfish sea, 
its moan as up to the moon it strove," until, after a good deal 
of perfunctory prayer on the beach, the moment came when "in 
the small poor hall of her father's house" he "felt and knew that the 
Fate did come and the Curse did fall." I have forgotten some of the 
middle part, though as I write, details come back to me that tend to 
further justify Mr. Longman; but I well remember the last stanzas, 
in which grave doubts as to the future are expressed, the hero go- 
ing so far as to ask himself: "Where Love did reign shall Despair 
and Hate blacken us both for the Hell below?" Nevertheless the 
prospect leaves him undaunted, and his last words are pitched in an 
heroic key to which Mary and I did ample justice, chanting out the 
final couplet in loud exultant unisono: 

Yet I feel no fears for the vengeful years, 
But lift up my face to defy them dll 

When I reflect how often the thought of this whole incident has 
made me laugh, I bless the mental effort that engraved a few hun- 
dred lines of inflated rubbish into the brains of two silly schoolgirls. 

1873-75] The Smyth Family Robinson 

CHAPTER XI. 1873-75 

IN the course of periodical returns to the scene of our past school- 
room activities, one thing impressed itself strongly on our minds. 
We had always been given to understand that the everlasting rum- 
puses and governess crises were owing to our peculiar temperaments 
and general unmanageableness; but it was obvious that exactly the 
same thing was going on now, also that the class of instructress had 
not changed since our day. But though we had had some queei 
specimens to deal with, Mary and I never achieved anything to com*, 
pete with the queen of the children's series a lady who wore stock- 
ings woven in black and white rings, and remarked it would be mad- 
ness for anyone whose legs were short of perfect symmetry to 
venture on that pattern. "I may tell you/' she added, ''that when I 
was young, gentlemen used to ask me to walk up ladders so that they 
might look at my ankles." The bewitching ankles were still ex- 
hibited to any large four-legged animal she might meet, before 
whom, catching up her petticoats, she would fly like the wind. On 
such occasions she was not above negotiation, a fact taken advantage 
of by her pupils, who would lead her innocently through a field in 
which, as they knew, one or other of the horses had been turned 
out. Paddy had a way of galloping after passers-by with his mouth 
wide open, which, though meant in the friendliest spirit, had such 
an effect on Miss GobelFs nerves that she would bribe them with 
the promise of a half-holiday to take her home by some other route. 
In fact, our successors were exactly the same heartless young brutes 
that we had been ourselves. 

Judging by its repercussion in the schoolroom, I think tie drama 
must have been on the up-grade in those days; certainly the chil- 
dren's performances struck me as more vivid and realistic than ours 
ever were. I well recall one particular charade acted on the landing 
outside the schoolroom. For the whole word a huge target was to be 
displayed, and it was the province of a little neighbour of ours (a 
child of excessive temperament), armed with a rifle, cap and all 
complete, to fire home the point. When the time came, however, 
overpowered by excitement she forgot to fire, and running amuck 

Impressions that Remained [1873-75 

amongst the audience prodded right and left with her weapon, 
screaming "Bull's-eye! bull's-eye!" The success of this unexpected 
finale may be imagined, but remembering what I have gone through 
myself on the operatic scene, owing to points of stage-management 
being missed or bungled, I warmly sympathize witth the fury of 
Miss Grace Pain's fellow actors. I remember, too, one bit of dia- 
logue that brought the house down, for the whole establish- 
ment, especially the men servants, heard it a least once a week in 
real life: 

SCENE: The Drawing-room 

PAPA: Where are the keys? 

MAMA: Under the clock. 

PAPA: They're not under the clock. 

MAMA: But they must be; I put them there myself, 

PAPA: I tell you they're not there. When did you have them last? 

MAMA: After luncheon of course, when Violet locked up the wine. It 
was bitterly cold in the dining-room because you always will tell David 
not to pile up the coals, and I remember going straight to the fireplace 
after lunch, and putting the keys under the clock before I settled down 
to try and get "warm again 

PAPA: Well then someone has taken them away and not put them 
back. If people go meddling with the keys and don't put them back, how 
the devil (fumbles in his trouser pockets) . Why, bless my soul! I had 
them in my pocket all the timel 

I may add that the children got up these things by themselves, 
the help of their elders being neither asked for nor required. 

During these short respites from Putney, Mary and I pursued 
pleasure with the avidity of people who know there is a term set to 
it, and I am reminded that our neighbours, whose houses were a 
fortune to us in holiday time, have not yet been spoken of as fully 
as they deserve. 

Like the Longmans, most of them came under the usual heading 
peaceful, normal people, nations without a history; but there were 
certain others with whom I rather wonder we were allowed to as- 
sociate so freely. I suppose our parents had acquired with years an 
easy-going, take-things-as-you-find-them philosophy, such as befits 


1873-75! The Smyth Family Robinson 

people not very well off, who have large families keen on enjoying 


One neighbouring establishment was really fantastic; an im- 
mensely fat, clever lady of the house, rumoured to have been a nurs- 
ery governess in early youth; a husband generally absent on journeys 
connected with some unspecified business, who was said to be ad- 
dicted to drink; and an aged father stowed away in an annex, who 
was taken by my father, on the occasion of a first visit, to be the 
gardener and sworn at for not opening a gate quick enough. There 
were many children, including two schoolboys in love with Mary 
and me respectively (though needless to say Mary eventually 
mopped up both) and a daughter, of an age to be "such a nice 
friend for Alice/' Further there was a Mr. Y-~, "our dear old friend 
Y.," whose resemblance to one of the boys was so remarkable as to 
dumbfounder casual callers. But above all there was a handsome 
old peer in Holy Orders, with a flowing grey beard and the grand 
manner, who may be said to have constituted a regular part of this 
curious household. Charitable neighbours would point to the fact 
that his invalid wife was also in the house, but as she was kept 
hidden in a side wing and seldom if ever seen, whereas he and his 
hostess drove out together daily," bulging right and left over the sides 
of a tiny victoria, scandal continued to simmer. At some Christmas 
festivity to which Johnny and Maunsell B were invited, the 
rarely present master of the house was reported to have burst into 
tears and invited anyone who dared breathe a word against his dear 
wife to come out on to the lawn and fight him. He was gently con- 
ducted to his bedroom by the peer, and everyone tacitly agreed to 
go on as if nothing had happened. We frequently played mixed 
cricket with the family, and it was pointed out that the rector, who 
liked a glass of good port, always ate his Sunday dinner at that 
hospitable board. 

Another distant neighbour was a well-known old Whig, supposed 
to have stood in his youth for the figure of Barney Newcome; but 
that I cannot believe, for though an egoist and a terrible snob, he 
ha<3 qualities that Barney had not, being witty, well-read, kindly, 
and what my father called rather an old rip. With his fluffy white 
hair and coal-black eyebrows, his passionate love of poetry, his eight- 
eenth-century nonchalance and cynicism, his extreme good nature 

Impressions that Remained [1873-75 

and worthiness, he was even then a figure belonging to the past 
Statesmen and members of the great world would now and again 
pass the week-end with him, and knowing that the best receipt for 
keeping young is to mingle with youth, he would be at some trouble 
to secure the presence of neighbouring young girls. 

The subsequent happenings were standardized; he would invite 
you into the library to look at the bindings of some new books; 
and then an arm would steal round your waist, and various pinch- 
ings and squeezings, graduated according to the receptivity of his 
companion, had to be endured. Even the most recalcitrant, such as 
I, were begged to "give an old man a kiss," and it is strange he did 
not guess with what repulsion one met those old, cold lips. What 
could we do? He had tried his best to give us a good time, and we 
felt this was the only return we could make; but it was extremely 
horrible, and I often wonder how far he 'went with more facile 
subjects than myself. Once he gave me a sovereign not, be it re- 
marked, for favours received and when I hesitated to accept it he 
said: "My dear, take an old man's advice, never refuse a good offer." 
I thought the advice sound and have followed it ever since. It ap- 
pears that when his hour struck, this old heathen made a beautiful 
and well-mannered end, apologizing "to his nurse, like Charles II, for 
being such an unconscionable time dying. 

Now, my parents knew all about these two households but never 
dreamed of preventing our going there. I cannot say how entirely 
I approve this tacit recognition of the truth that it takes all sorts to 
make a world; and as in the country you can't pick and choose, 
better let your children find their own way about. If I had a family 
of my own I would bring them up on the same lines. 

In the country, what are nominally children's parties are often 
besprinkled with grown-ups, and if only for that reason Mary and 
I were not above attending many such in our Christmas holidays. 
Mary was now an extremely pretty girl with a natural taste for flirta- 
tion, and the eternal trouble was that, being two years older than I, 
she had a better chance even if other things were equal, which 
they were not of securing grown-up partners, the secret ambition 
of every child in the room. As a matter of fact they swarmed round 
her. Once at a dance at the Longmans', I the surefooted one, the 


1873-75] The Smyth Family Robinson 

athlete of the family, suffered the anguish and humiliation of slip- 
ping up on the paraquet floor and coming down on all fours beside 
my partner (only a boy of course), whose head nearly cracked the 
boards. Later on, Mary, who was eating an ice, and being ministered 
to by a nephew of Mrs. Longman's,. Edward Bray (a very good- 
looking Oxonian, with romantic grey eyes), said to me airily over 
her shoulder: "You must have knocked at least fifty off your price." 
If ever murder was in anyone's heart it was in mine at that moment! 

I had recently performed a rather bold feat. There was a big drain 
in our grounds, about two feet in diameter, that carried off the rain- 
water from the wood into the canal, and, the season being dry, I had 
entered this drain from the canal side and crawled right through it 
some thirty yards perhaps pushing the unwilling dog in front 
of me as a precaution against mephitic gases, and bribing Violet with 
f ourpence to follow close in my wake. One day when I was bragging, 
as not infrequently happened, of my pluck, Mary casually remarked 
that she had told Edward Bray about it, and all he said was: "Pah! 
how disgusting!" . . . Slowly I realized he had mistaken the nature 
of the drain! . . . This was the sort of thing that would make me 
murmur to myself in the silent watches of the night: "I wish I was 
dead I wish I was dead!" . . . 

Despite this grey-eyed Oxonian and many other fervent admirers, 
Mary was not unmindful of earlier ties. Maunsell B., still Johnny's 
great friend, now considered himself seriously, though secretly, en- 
gaged to her much to the agitation of his mother, who saw what 
was going on and, though a great friend of our mother, had no 
intention of letting her darling and only son marry a girl without 
money. Meanwhile Mrs. B. was far away, and Mary on the sofa be- 
side him, where they would sit in the dusk and ask for soft music. 
Being, as I said, favourable to love-affairs in general, I met their 
views, and am glad to believe gave satisfaction, the first movement 
of the "Moonlight Sonata" being considered especially sustaining 
to the emotions. Whoever else did not appreciate my music, those 
two certainly did. 

During one of our summer holidays I myself was favoured for the 
first time with amatory speeches from a grown-up, though in rather 
a public manner, for they were bawled from the branches of a big 


Impressions that Remained [1873-75 

apple tree whereon grew the ruddiest apples I ever saw, and which 
was no distance from the dining-room windows. The climber, one 
Colonel Mclvor, was a total stranger to all of us except my mother, 
into whose life he had leaped with one chivalrous bound, dragging 
her, so to speak, from beneath the wheels of a Paris omnibus. One 
can imagine how this romantic incident appealed to her imagination, 
how he was pressed to look us up in England, and arrived one day, 
just in time for luncheon, on a short visit. 

He described himself as a "real soldier of fortune, one who has 
fought for lost causes all over the world," and had with him a col- 
lection of "grandeurs/ 7 in the shape of foreign orders, which my 
father wholly failed to identify. If the publicity of his declaration, 
which took place soon after luncheon, was rather disconcerting, I 
supposed these were open-hearted ways acquired under warmer 
skies than ours and was flattered on the whole. But as the day went 
on, his tales of adventure by field and flood became more and more 
incoherent, so much so that after dinner a strong hint was given 
him by my father to leave next morning by an early train, which he 
did. We afterwards found out he had proposed to both Alice and 
Mary, and according to her account had made improper advances 
to the children's governess; so I ceased boasting of my conquest. 

Colonel Mclvor was far from being our only improvised visitor, 
for my mother, bored with English humdrumness and attracted by 
all things foreign, would sometimes catch at very queer straws that 
floated past her in Homberg or Wildbad waters. For instance there 
was a certain Madame de S., a Belgian, who I dimly felt, even then, 
after a certain conversation, was not quite in her place in the bosom 
of an English family; she also was more or less bundled out of the 
house. Cultivated, well-dressed, with perfect manners, I have some- 
times wondered since whether she was perhaps a white-slave agent. 

At length came a day to which I had always looked forward with 
dread; Mary, who was now of an age to come out, left Miss D/s for 
ever. I was miserable without her, and grateful for being allowed 
eventually to leave school before my own time was up, poor Nina 
being sent to work off the prepaid terms in my place. Once home I 
made Mother give me lessons in Italian, which delighted us both, 
for she was a capital teacher; also I went in for a Cambridge Local 


1873-75] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Examination and was plucked owing to grievous incapacity for do- 
ing sums. Johnny, who had been kind and interested, was really dis- 
tressed at my failure, but Cousin Hugo wrote a mock consolatory 
letter about my now being entitled to write M.A. after my name 
that is, Mulled in Arithmetic a joke I didn't think at all funny. 

It was in the summer of 1875 a summer that in any case was 
to rob her of her favourite daughter that the great sorrow of my 
mother's life happened. Alice had been engaged for some time to a 
young Scotsman, Harry Davidson, and the couple were waiting for 
an impending improvement in his prospects, when Mary, who had 
been out but a short time, also became engaged - not to Maunsell 
B. but to Charlie Hunter, brother of a school friend of hers. There 
was to be a joint wedding in July, and the invitations, of which 
I had mercifully kept a list, had been sent out, when it became evi- 
dent that Johnny's slow martyrdom, endured by him with mar- 
vellous fortitude and sweetness, was coming to an end. For a fort- 
night he had suffered from terrible headaches, as usual making no 
complaint, and one night at dessert, taking up a biscuit, he said: 
"How queer, I can't read the letters on this biscuit/' He then sank 
back, as we thought fainting, but a tumour on the brain had burst, 
and he became unconscious by slow degrees, his last conscious words 
being: "Don't let this illness of mine stop the girls' weddings." 

We used to take it in turn to watch nightly beside his bed, and 
when relieved spent the rest of the night on a sofa in the hall close 
by, so as to be ready if needed. One night, after my watch was over, 
I stumbled and fell, and there I was found when the housemaid 
came in the morning to open the shutters, asleep on the floor . . . 
as I had fallen. Such is the sleep hunger of youth. There had just 
been time to cancel the invitations, but as it seemed that he might 
linger for some time yet, the marriages took place one morning at 
Frimley Church, none of the family but myself being present. The 
bridegrooms went back to London from the church door, and a few 
days afterwards Johnny died. That afternoon the children had been 
sent to a kind neighbour, and Nelly says that on their return Mother 
met them at the front door to tell them he was dead, tears streaming 
down her face, yet trying to smile a picture of grief that has re- 
mained with them ever since. 


Impressions that Remained [ 1 875-76 

This was my first acquaintance with death, and the sight of that 
strange unfamiliar face impressed me terribly and painfully. The 
day after the funeral the married couples departed, and I became the 

eldest at home. 

CHAPTER XII. 1875 and 1876 

ALL this time, whether at home or at school, the main determina- 
tion of my life, though sometimes obscured, had never wavered; it 
was like a basso ostinato, which, as subsequent counterpoint studies 
showed me, will sometimes be shifted to a less obvious position in 
the midst of other voices and seem to the eye of ignorance to have 
vanished. I certainly trifled with other ideas, such as marriage, travel, 
becoming a Roman Catholic, or even a nun. This last seems fan- 
tastic now, but after my Confirmation I held, as I do still, only in 
quite another sense, that only one thing matters, one's relation to 
God. And if so, how about obedience to parents? My father would 
never let me go abroad willingly, if only for reasons of economy, and 
I quite grasped that making an allowance to a married daughter, 
whose future is no longer your business, is quite another thing than 
financing a maiden's sterile whims. In his mind's eye he would see 
me, no doubt, returned on his hands a failure and knocking too 
late at doors in the marriage market; meanwhile his income was 
none too large to keep the home going. After all, in the religious 
life there would be scope for limitless passion a belief that I 
imagine induces many conversions and Thomas a Kempis had 
given me a foretaste of the ecstasy of renunciation. In one of these 
moods I set to music and dedicated to a latest "passion," a very 
religious woman whose name was Louisa Lady Sitwell, a long piece 
of sacred poetry. I wish I could look at that MS. now, but no doubt 
it went into her wastepaper basket more than forty years ago, and 
now she is dead. 

A less sympathetic phase was Social Ambition. I had read memoirs 
about Lady So-and-So governing the world from her political salon, 

1875-76] The Smyth Family Robinson 

and used to spend hours studying the Peerage and settling which 
duke's eldest son was to give me the position I was so well fitted to 
adorn. It became a mania for the time, and as we knew no dukes and 
1 had no footing whatever in the great world, implied, but for its 
piteous snobbishness, a great amount of imaginative energy, I think 
it must have been in a departing spasm of that craze that, in answer 
to "What is your greatest desire?" I wrote in someone's Confession 
Book: "To be made a Peeress in my own Right because of Music!" 
Of course this matrimonial scheming was really a sort of game, like 
taking a Continental Bradshaw and atlas and planning journeys 
round the world; but I don't think it was a nice game, and nothing 
but a firm intention to speak the whole truth and nothing but the 
truth in these pages makes me record the Social Ambition phase. 

The point is that these temporary crazes blinked into sight to 
vanish again, and back came the basso ostinato more ostinato than 
ever as I would take pains, by some casual remark, to let my 
father know; whereupon he would angrily rustle his Times and 
mutter something about "damned nonsense!" As for my mother, 
though she was by way of backing him up, I thought she was secretly 
on my side. 

I always count the arrival of that governess who played classical 
music to me when I was twelve as the first milestone on my road; 
suddenly, when I was least looking for anything dramatic, the sec- 
ond milestone loomed into vision to my great excitement we 
learned that the composer of Jerusalem the Golden, a Mr. Ewing, 
in the Army Service Corps, who had married one of the Gattys, in 
fact "Aunt Judy" herself, was stationed at Aldershot! Even my 
father, who hadn't an ounce of music in his composition, may have 
been moved by the news, for that hymn tune, in which there is a 
sort of groping ecstasy confined in "Ancient and Modern" fetters, 
was considered almost as integral a part of the Church Service as one 
of the Collects. For my part I took it on trust that at last I was to 
meet, not a poor musical hack like Herr A. S., but a real musician. 
And I was right, besides which Mr. Ewing turned out to be one of 
the most delightful, original, and whimsical personalities in the 

Mrs. Ewing and my mother were attached to each other at once 


Impressions that Remained [1875-76 

and eventually became great friends. Meanwhile she took the whole 
adoring family to her heart, bade us call her "Aunt Judy/ 7 wrote us 
all the most delightful letters, and it is a great source of pride to us 
that the fair and donkey-riding incidents in her delightful ^ story 
Jackanapes were suggested by Bob's adventures at our own Frimley 
Fair. Her lustre was slightly dimmed by a tendency to enjoy bad 
health; I think she really was not strong, but as her father once ex- 
claimed, according to his son-in-law: "Dear Juliana is always better, 
thank you, but never quite well" I found a packet of charming 
letters of hers to Mother, written in the most beautiful hand imagi- 
nable, which are half spoiled by constant references to her poor 
back, her wretched head, the air-cushions people lent her, the num- 
ber of hours spent on the sofa after each journey, and so on. 

She was devoted to the other sex, more especially to officers in the 
Royal Engineers, then supposed to have the monopoly of brains in 
the British Army, and had discreet, semi-intellectual, and wholly 
blameless flirtations with two or three of these at a time. I did not 
quite approve of this possibly from jealousy, for needless to say 
she at once became the ruling "passion." As for her husband, he 
of course demanded to hear me play and be shown my compositions, 
after which he proclaimed to our little world that I was a bora 
musician and must at once be educated. 

My father was furious; he personally disliked my new friend, as he 
did all people not true to the English type, and foresaw that the Leip- 
zig idea would now be endorsed warmly by one who knew. The last 
straw was when Mr. Ewing proposed that he himself should begin 
by teaching me harmony; but on this point my mother, urged on by 
Aunt Judy, who had great respect for her husband's judgment, came 
over definitely into my camp. So it was settled that twice a week I 
was to drive myself over to Aldershot and submit my exercises to his 

These expeditions were the delight of my life. The Ewings lived 
in one of the wooden huts of which in those days the whole camp, 
with the exception of the barracks, was constituted. They were 
stifling in summer and bitterly cold in winter, but full of charm. 
Some had gardens, and luckily the Ewings' was one of these, for 
both were gardeners and dog-lovers. I always brought her flowers 
from Frimhurst, picking with my own hand those she loved best, 

6 ] The Smyth Fcmnly Robinson 

and generally laid siege to her heart. At one moment I must have 
apologized for "gush" for in one of her letters she writes: "One 
word, my dear child, about 'gush/ I think a habit of gush, like a 
habit of pious talk, without being necessarily absolutely insincere 
is very objectionable and both make me feel awkward to the last 
degree. But few people are weaker than I am as regards the luxury 
of being loved, and pace the physiologists and psychologists, 
I like a little divine fire both in affairs of the heart and of the 
soul/' Well, she got it as far as I was concerned; but though she 
delighted in and had positive genius for young people, I fancy my 
ardent devotion gratified her less than the respectful homage of 
the R.E/S. 

I used to arrive at eleven and have harmony instruction till lunch- 
eon; besides this my teacher analysed my compositions, and I felt 
how capital his criticism was, and how pithily expressed. His real 
instrument was the organ, but with fingers ill-adapted to piano- 
playing, aided by a very harsh cracked voice, he banged and bellowed 
his way through the scenes of Lohengrin and The Flying Dutchman, 
and otherwise introduced me to Wagner. And very definitely I re- 
member that Beethoven appealed to me more than Wagner or 
anyone else; nevertheless I was bitten by the operatic form of Art 
a taste that was to be squashed for the time in Leipzig later on and 
wrote in yet another Confession Book that my "greatest desire*' was 
to have an opera of mine played in Germany before I was forty 
an ambition fated to be realized. I still have, and really educated my- 
self on, a copy of Berlioz orchestration Mr. Ewing gave me; it is 
full of characteristic marginal notes and ejaculations by the giver, 
and is a book I often look into from sheer delight in its style. 

After luncheon Mrs. Ewing would good-naturedly correct and 
comment on the English of little articles I wrote for some obscure 
parish magazine, declaring she could turn me into a writer by and 
by; but I much preferred playing with the dogs and talking to their 
owners while they gardened. 

Meanwhile my father's dislike of "that fellow/ 7 as he called him, 
became fanatical. With all his geniality he could be extremely for- 
bidding in manner to people he disapproved of, and had a way of 
looking at them without seeing them, his moustache raised in a slight 
snarl, that was worse than deliberate rudeness. The sight of even a 


Impressions that Remained [ 1 875-76 

civilian untidy about the hair, necktie, and feet, irritated him, and 
Mr. Ewing was an officer! Fortunately he never saw him in uni- 
form, for difficult as it is to achieve, my friend managed to look 
even more slovenly in uniform than in plain clothes. 

But the worst was Papa's persistent misreading of his moral char- 
acter. He must have known that bad digestions often cause red 
noses, but in this case it was ascribed to Scotch whisky; and, most 
infuriating of all, artists being in his opinion "loose fish," he put his 
own construction on my mentor's sentiment for me, which, though 
very warm and keen, was devoid of the slightest trace of lovemaking. 
Nor were matters improved by his learning from innocent Aunt 
Judy herself that her husband was a successful mesmerist a talent 
cultivated exclusively, I fancy, in the interest of his wife's ailments, 
but one can imagine how its possession endeared him to the father 
of an impressionable daughter! Knowing nothing whatever about 
what goes on in an artist's soul, he had no satisfactory clue to the 
ardour of our alliance, besides which, as I noticed once or twice in 
after life, unable to sway me himself, he resented my being under 
the influence of any other man. In short nothing but his reverence 
for Aunt Judy and her own unfailing tact and charm staved off dis- 
aster for the time being. 

But it came at last! I have always had a bad habit of strewing my 
room with correspondence, and one of Papa's amiable weaknesses 
was a tendency, as my mother put it, to "go poking about one's 
writing-table/' On one of these occasions he found a certain letter 
from Mr. Ewing * a charming one, but hardly pleasant reading 
for parents and guardians! The result was such a terrific storm that 
the harmony lessons, which in any case were running to a close, the 
Ewings being under orders to leave Aldershot shortly, came to an 
abrupt end. 

My chief gain in this companionship was of course the immense 
quickening of my musical life generally, and the comfort of at last 
feeling "the breath of kindred plumes about my feet." I always think 
of my first musician friend with amusement, tenderness, and also 
great sadness, for if ever nature fashioned an artist it was this man, 
condemned by fate to live and die a drudge in the Army Service 

1 Appendk I (D) 7 p. 129, No. 9. 


1875-76] The Smyth Family Robinson 

It was during the Ewing epoch that, invited to stay with the 
O'H.'s, I paid a first and certainly memorable visit to Ireland. My 
host, more amazing than ever, was evidently considered a character 
even in his own country, but what I chiefly remember is riding a 
good deal with his daughter, who, as we know, had "a prettier seat 
on horseback than any other girl in Ireland/' As a matter of fact 
she had a beautiful figure, which swayed easily to the canter of a 
thoroughbred that was never allowed to trot; and as I scornfully 
wrote home, under these circumstances it is not difficult to present 
a graceful appearance in the saddle! I even advanced with great 
caution some such theory to her father, who replied with lightning 
rapidity that no woman ever born could trot, and that he would 
shoot any female belonging to him who made that sort of Judy of 

His gentle wife was of the opinion that if I raised my little finger 
I could make an excellent match out there with a certain young 
squire, adding: "You must remember, my dear, your poor father has 
still got four girls on his hands" a remark I rather resented from 
the mother of one, for in those spacious days the Psalmist's view 
of the full quiver obtained, and we were proud of our large family. 
1 replied I was not going to marry, having other views. This renders 
still more surprising the adventure that befell me on my homeward 

On the way out I had been chaperoned across the water by a de- 
lightful, exceedingly Irish friend of ours, wife of the great soldier 
who afterwards became Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, and was 
to rejoin her at the house of her brother-in-law, Lord Fitzgerald, at 
Bray. There I met a young barrister, Mr. William Wilde, with whom 
I played tennis, and also discussed poetry, the arts, and more par- 
ticularly philosophy, in remoter parts of the garden. I saw at once 
he was very clever, and after dinner found he was so musical as 
actually to put ends of his own to Chopin's Etudes, for which, later 
on, I might have chopped off his fingers with the lid of the piano; 
but I then thought it quite wonderful and was glad to find this 
young man, of whom that great lawyer my host thought highly, was 
going to England next day in our boat. 

We boarded her after dinner, and Willie Wilde, as they all called 
him, pointed out to me a tall figure clad in dark blue, leaning over 

Impressions that Remained [1875-76 

the bulwarks and gazing seaward, as "'my brother the poet." It was 
the great Oscar, who was at once introduced, and on whom it after- 
wards appeared, according to his brother, I had the good fortune to 
make a favourable impression. But as he was as yet unknown outside 
Oxford the fact left me unthrilled. 

The night was glorious, a full moon and no wind, and I was sur- 
prised that Mrs. Wood at once retired to her cabin, for on the out- 
ward journey the sea had been like a mill-pond and I thought the 
Irish Channel a much maligned piece of water. Willie Wilde pro- 
duced rags and he and I sat on deck discussing Auguste Comte! 
Presently I began to dislike the way the mast moved slowly to and 
fro across the face of the moon, and must have made some remark 
to that effect, for my companion flew off to fetch some brandy which 
he said would put everything right. The next moment I was stag- 
gering on his arm to the ladies' cabin, and before the stewardess 
could intervene, to quote our old friend the enamoured priest, "the 
Fate did come and the Curse did fall." Willie Wilde retired hur- 
riedly, but I was past caring who had seen what. 

The next thing I remember is the train at Holyhead and a long 
carriage with berths for men at one end and for women at the other, 
between the two a sort of loose-box with one seat in it like a small 
guard's van. Mrs. Wood, the most easy-going chaperon I ever met, 
who herself had been very seasick all night, vanished into the ladies' 
territory, while Willie Wilde and I ensconced ourselves in the loose- 
box, he sitting on a Huntley and Palmer's biscuit-tin at my feet. 
And there, in spite of what had happened on the boat, he seized my 
hand and began an impassioned declaration, in the middle of which 
the biscuit-tin collapsed. This mishap, which surely would have 
thrown an Englishman out of his stride, he passed over with some 
remark I have forgotten, though not its Irish gaiety, and resumed 
his tale of passion; and before the train steamed into Euston I was 
engaged to a man I was no more in love with than I was with the 

At Euston were were met by Major Wood, who adored his wife, 
and were hustled across to the hotel, my lover being of course of 
the party. Trains were few and far between in those days, so we de- 
cided to tidy up and stay there for some hours before proceeding to 
Waterloo, it being understood that the Woods had letters to look 


Juliana Haratia E<wing ("'Aim Judy"), 

1 875-76] The Smyth Family Robinson 

through and momentoos matters concerning a new appointment 
to discuss. They breakfasted in their own room and we two in the 
coffee-room, and when I ran upstairs to ask if I might go off with 
Willie Wilde to see some old houses (really to buy a ring) im- 
patient voices from behind the locked door answered in duet: "Yes, 
yes, go by all means." Finally I arrived at Frimhurst with a gold 
band ending in two clasped hands on whichever was the correct 
finger, and for once wearing gloves, my fiance having requested that 
the affair be kept secret for the present. 

On reflection I found this did not meet my views; averse to secrecy 
at all times, where was the fun of pulling off an engagement before 
you are out if no one is to be any the wiser? And then the love- 
letters began to arrive! Now although to propose to a girl five hours 
after you have seen her being seasick is a proof, as I said to myself, 
of true love, and though to go on proposing after your seat has given 
way beneath you argues not only passion but sense of humour, un- 
defeatedness, and other admirable qualities, the fact remains that 
I had accepted this young man from flattered vanity, light-hearted- 
ness, adventurousness, anything you please except love. Conse- 
quently the letters, which I have since reread, and which are really 
very like the genuine thing, rapidly put me off; nor did I like his 
gentle but continued insistence on the article of silence. In short 
before three weeks were over, probably to his secret relief, I had 
broken off the engagement, adding that I would like to keep the ring 
as a souvenir! And keep it I did, until a year or two afterwards, when 
I lost it while separating two dogs who were fighting in deep snow 
in the heather. Thus ended my first and last engagement, the hero 
of which I never saw again a pity, for they say he became even a 
better talker than his brother. 

Soon after this adventure, the Ewings having meanwhile left 
Aldershot, I came out, but cannot remember what my then frame of 
mind was. I had never dreamed of putting through my musical plans 
till I should be really grown up that would have been too unrea- 
sonable nor, as I said, did there seem any need for special hurry. 
So I suppose I thought it well to take a look at the world of real balls 
and other festivities for which I was now qualified. 

On the whole it did not come up to expectations. I loved, and 


Impressions that Remained [ 1 875-76 

still love, that soundest form of entertainment, dining out; not only 
from greediness and pleasant curiosity as to what you are about to 
receive, but because of the mingling of old and young, the talk and 
laughter, and the gradual warming up of the atmosphere under the 
influence of good cheer. After dinner I was always asked to sing at 
once, and as I took care that no one else should get at the piano 
the musical torture was eliminated. 

But the balls! oh, the long drives in a tight white satin bodice, 
and the entreaties to sit and not crumple your skirt! My mother 
always said, too, that towards the middle of the evening my head 
arrangements suggested a Bacchante or a Cherokee chief, and would 
waylay me in corridors and tea-rooms, with hairpins plucked from 
her own head as a mother bird in the interests of her offspring 
tears feathers from her breast. Little gratitude and much impatience 
were her reward. But the dancing itself was the greatest trial. I loved 
dancing with a delirious "I wish I could die" passion, especially 
when the music appealed to me and just then a man who called 
himself "Waldte'ufel," no doubt an Austrian, was writing beautiful 
waltzes but alas! only one in ten partners had any notion of time, 
and what made it worse, the nine were always behind, never before 
the beat. Then it was that I would hear a pretentious, fraudulent, 
utterly idiotic phrase which I hope is no longer current in ball- 
rooms: "I generally dance half-time" (!) . Sometimes I would firmly 
seize smaller, lighter partners by the scuff of the neck, so to speak, 
and whirl them along in the way they should go, but I saw they were 
not enjoying themselves, and oddly enough I wanted these wretches 
to like dancing with me. 

Another thing; years had not yet purged me of snobbishness, and 
I noticed that the "smart" young men, being I suppose above such 
considerations, were the worst time-keepers of all; so that if I did 
not wish to be driven frantic I must dance with the cads. And on the 
way home my father would suddenly ask from his corner of the car- 
riage: "Who was that nasty-looking fellow you were dancing with 
so much?" (He always pronounced his a's in north-country fashion, 
as in the word "cap," which made the adjective still more damag- 
ing.) Since then I have come to the conclusion that the best sort 
of Englishman we breed nowadays, however it may have been in 
Shakespere's time, is "the man that hath not music in his soul," or 


1875-76] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Indeed artistic proclivities of any kind. There are exceptions of 
course, such as my dear Mr. Ewing and others I could name, but 
I fear the rule holds good. 

Nor were these the only drawbacks; if I went to a ball it was to 
dance, and for no other reason, but I soon found out this is a very 
incomplete theory of balls. Being a self-sufficing person, who didn't 
want to cling or be clung to except in the way of dancing, what was 
I doing in this ante-chamber of matrimony, the ball-room? It was 
the old trouble cropping up again of knowing that between my world 
and me a gulf was fixed, that I was a wolf in sheep's clothing, in fact 
a fraud. Talent for flirtation I had none that wants another tem- 
perament, not passionate but either light or sensual and my at- 
tempts were amateurish and half-hearted, like the childish love-affairs 
with schoolboys. Then too there was the humiliating infuriating 
idea that if I was "nice" to a man he would think I wanted to marry 
him! Notwithstanding these disabilities, being young and not ugly 
I did pull off one or two little flirtations, or rather had an admirer 
here and there whom I fear I encouraged with a view to starting a 
"proposal list." But nothing much resulted. 

There was, however, one passing moment of sentimental weak- 
ness, and consequent unfaithfulness to my big purpose, which must 
be recorded. I had a friend, not a "passion" for once but a clever well- 
read woman, whose brother I fancied myself in love with. I men- 
tion her because on one or two other occasions I had the same illu- 
sion respecting near relations of women friends and explain It thus: 
the sun I revolved round illumined another body which, in defiance 
of such astronomical knowledge as I possessed, was taken for another 
fiery globe instead of merely a dead moon. It is not fair however 
to speak thus of my young man as I thought him then, for besides 
being extraordinarily good-looking in the style I most admired 
fair with blue eyes he was anything but a fool, and one of the 
smartest officers in a celebrated cavalry regiment. 

Whether he did, or did not, deliberately trifle with my young 
affections I cannot say, but when one day at a ball at East Horseley 
Towers he asked me to come into the conservatory as he had some- 
thing to tell me before his regiment left Aldershot, I had no doubt 
as to what was coming, and if he had proposed to me think I should 
have accepted him, though the affair would certainly have ended 


Impressions that Remained [1876-77 

as did the bogus engagement to Willie Wilde. What happened 
however was that he took from his breast pocket the likeness of a 
perfectly lovely girl to whom lie said he was going to propose next 
week! . . . This was rather a shock, but I kept a stiff upper lip and 
wished him luck. If I was unhappy about it, all I can say is, it has 
left no trace in my memory. He married the girl, had a most miser- 
able and tragic life with her, and afterwards was supposed to have 
shot himself by accident on a big-game expedition, but no one really 
believed it was an accident. 

This ghost of a love-affair was my last glance back from the plough, 
and the fight for freedom was soon to begin in grim earnest. 

CHAPTER XIIL 1876 and 1877 

IN spite of these social perturbations, for I won't quite call them 
pleasures, music ran her course more or less fitfully. One day I went 
with the Ewings to a Wagner concert, and was introduced to her 
brother, Alfred Scott Gatty, the successful song-writer, who, know- 
ing his brother-in-law's soaring spirit, entreated me above all things 
not to aim high; "it's not the slightest use/' he added, and I rather 
think he was speaking seriously. Wagner, who was almost un- 
known in England, had rashly contracted for a series of concerts 
conducted by himself, which I afterwards heard were a failure finan- 
cially. My party were all hard up, and we sat so far away from the 
platform that all I saw was an undersized man with a huge head, 
apparently in a towering rage from start to finish of the concert; I 
thought he could hardly refrain from whacking heads right and left 
instead of merely the desk. No doubt the performance was insuffi- 
ciently rehearsed and execrable; anyhow I was not as much carried 
away as I expected. 

As yet though there had been a great deal of simmering I was not 
in open disgrace with my father; he used even to do unexpected 
kind little things. For instance Aunt Susan had given me prints of 


j 876-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

some of my favourite pictures in the National Gallery Bellini's 
Doge was one and suddenly he told me to get them framed and 
put it down to him; perhaps he wished to nib in that there are 
blameless forms of art-devotion. Two things, my love of riding and 
a growing interest in politics, threw a frail bridge of sympathy be- 
tween us at times, and shortly before the crisis he presented me 
with a filly he had bred, and let me break her, which amused me 
and saved him expense. I schooled her regularly over the home 
fences, and as I was allowed to ride out alone the least trouble- 
some form of locomotion for the stable hands I used to lark her 
surreptitiously over neighbours 7 hedges. There is a field near Cove, 
now full of aircraft sheds, where I once lay in a ditch, the filly on 
top of me, for quite ten minutes before I could wriggle myself free. 

I did a certain amount of country-house visiting. To be inspected 
on coming out by the head of my mother's family, Sir William 
Stracey, was a ceremony that ranked only second to presentation at 
Court, and I recollect that on the way down to Rackheath I got 
a bit of coal dust into my eye and arrived with it bunged up. As 
usual there was no weak display of pity, only extreme irritation on 
my mother's part at such a thing happening "just when I wanted 
you to look your best for Uncle Harry." The Straceys of that gen- 
eration were the most musical family I ever met in England, and 
I remember saying naively to my cousin Diana: "Why, you're al- 
most as musical as me!" 

Another visit that left an impression was one paid with my father 
to his life-long friend Mr, Staniforth of Windermere, an im- 
mensely rich old Quaker of purest breed, who wore a broad- 
brimmed beaver hat, had never crossed the sea, and nevertheless 
was a tremendous power in the county. He was greatly entertained 
at learning that my luggage consisted of eight hats, no extra boots, 
and no nightgown, I having packed for myself; also at my address- 
ing from his house a tremendous letter to the Times about "Eng- 
lish Apathy as regards Wagner." I had already translated two or 
three articles from Schumann's delightful Music and Musicians for 
Macmillctrfs Magazine, and hopes had been held out that further 
translations would be favourably considered; hence I was surprised 
and disgusted to receive a polite intimation that my letter would 
not appear in the columns of the Times. 

Impressions that Remained [1876-77 

Of course too there were visits to the married sisters. While stay- 
ing with Alice and Harry Davidson in Edinburgh I wrote the bal- 
lad Schon Rothraut, with which I was soon to sing myself into 
musical circles at Leipzig also went to balls, and was entranced 
by what I had never seen before, reels danced in costume and to 
perfection. On the way home I stayed with Mary and Charlie 
Hunter in Northumberland, going out hunting on the only animal 
that could be raised for me a huge heavy horse that drew old 
Mr. Hunter's coal-cart, and was supposed never to have jumped a 
fence in its life. On that day it got over or through a good many 
one could hardly call it jumping and I enjoyed myself immensely. 
But all the time the conviction grew and grew that nothing was 
any good save one thing, and that go to Leipzig I must. 

Occasionally, though very rarely, I went to a concert in London, 
being met at Waterloo and convoyed to St. James's Hall by some 
approved friend, or perhaps by Aunt Susan's maid, and on one oc- 
casion was actually presented to Frau Schumann and her daugh- 
ters. This great event was engineered by a friend of mine, Mrs. 
George Schwabe, of whom more will be related presently, whose 
mother-in-law another personality who will reappear in these 
pages was an old friend of Frau Schumann's. The extraordinary 
thing is that in the wealth of impressions I was to gain in after life 
of that wonderful woman, all recollections of our first meeting have 
faded, but I gather from a remark in one of Mr. Ewing's letters 
that she gave my musical aspirations her blessing. She could do no 

Soon after I struck what may rank as a half-milestone in my jour- 
ney; for the first time I heard Brahms. The occasion was a Satur- 
day Popular Concert at which the Liebeslieder Wether were sung 
by four persons, three of whom (the Germans) knew the com- 
poser personally and afterwards became factors in my life. They 
were Frauleins Friedlander and Redeker, Mr. Shakespere, and 
George Henschel. That day I saw the whole Brahms; other bigger 
and, to use the language of pedants, more important works of his 
were to kindle fresh fires later on, but his genius possessed me then 
and there in a flash. I went home with a definite resolution in iny 
heart. . . . 


1876-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

That night there was a discussion at dinner as to which drawing- 
room I had better be presented at. Suddenly I announced it was 
useless to present me at all, since I intended to go to Leipzig, even 
if I had to run away from home, and starve when I got there. . . . 

I almost despair of anyone believing today, so quickly has the 
world moved since then, what such a step stood for in my father's 
mind. We knew no artists, and to him the word simply meant 
people who are out to break the Ten Commandments. It is no ex- 
aggeration to say that the life I proposed to lead seemed to him 
equivalent to going on the streets; hence the strange phrase he 
hurled at me, harking back in his fury to the language of Webster's 
or Congreve's outraged fathers: "I would sooner see you under the 

After a period of vain efforts to overcome his resistance, which 
became so terrific that it was no longer possible to broach the sub- 
ject at all, I quite deliberately adopted the methods used years 
afterwards in political warfare by other women, who, having 
plumbed the depths of masculine prejudice, came to see this was 
the only road to victory. I not only unfurled the red flag, but de- 
termined to make life at home so intolerable that they would have 
to let me go for their own sakes. (I say "they/' but here again I 
felt that, whatever my mother might say in public, she was se- 
cretly with me.) In those days no decent girls travelled alone, 
third class and omnibuses were things unheard of in our world, and 
I had no money; but I would slip away across the fields to Farnbor- 
ough Station, travel third to London, and proceed by omnibus to 
any concert I fancied. The money difficulty was met by borrowing 
five shillings from tradesmen we dealt with on the Green, or the 
postman, "to be put down to the General." In order to be close to 
Joachim and his companions I would stand for hours in the queue 
at St. James's Hall, and ah! the revelation of hearing Schubert's 
A Minor Quartet! ... All my life his music has been perhaps 
nearer to my heart than any other that crystal stream welling 
and welling for ever, . . . 

From my place I used to watch George Eliot and her husband 
sitting together in the stalls like two elderly love-birds, and was irri- 


Impressions that Remained [1876-77 

tated by Lewes's habit of beating time on her arm with his pince- 
nez. There is a well-known syncopated passage in Beethoven's 
Quartet, Op. 132, and I noted with scornful amusement how the 
eyeglass, after a moment of hesitation, would begin marking the 
wrong beat, again hover uncertainly, and presently resume the right 
one with triumphant emphasis as if nothing had happened. All this 
George Eliot took as calmly as if she were the Sphinx, and Lewes an 
Arab brushing flies off her massive flanks. 

The greatest excitement was one day when with beating heart I 
forced my way past Mr. Chappell's Cerberus into the artists' room 
a place more sacredly awful to me than the Holy of Holies can 
ever have been to a young Levite and made the acquaintance o 
Frauleins Friedlander and Redeker, expressed to them my admira- 
tion of their singing, and fell madly in love with Redeker, whose 
rendering of that divine love-song: Wie hist du meine Konigin 
had all but torn the heart out of my body. They were goodnaturedly 
touched by such enthusiasm and begged me to come and see them 
some morning, which I did, climbing up stairs upon stairs to the 
room they shared. It was at eleven a.m., they were in deshabille, the 
beds unmade, and they were sipping port out of an egg-cup. This 
unaccustomed sight gave me rather a shock, and for a moment I 
thought of my father, but supposed it was just part of the artist 
life; and indeed a few months later such a spectacle would have 
made no more impression on me than did Mr. Lewes's eyeglass on 
George Eliot. 

My financial arrangements with the tradesmen came out of 
course, as they were meant to, and to my father's ragings I stub- 
bornly replied: "You won't let me go to Leipzig so of course I have 
to go to London to hear music." From this moment he became 
convinced that, freed from control, I should squander money right 
and left, and one of the stock phrases was: "We shall have to sell 
your mother's diamonds" a calamity that ranked in our minds 
with expedients such as debasing the coinage. But in this phrase I 
thought I saw a weakening of will; he was actually considering pos- 
sible consequences of surrender! . . . 

I had a few friends who backed me up more or less openly and 
were consequently looked on with disfavour at home. To this rule 
Barbara Hamley, now Lady Ernie, proved an exception, contriving 


1876-77] ^ e Smyth family Robinson 

in a miraculous manner to be my friend and yet keep on excellent 
terms with the parents, who delighted in her. She effected this 
miracle by a blend of tact, reasonableness, and sense of humour 
that must have oiled many locks in her course through life; more- 
over, but for her sympathy with the Frimhurst rebel, she was a 
perfectly normal, model young lady, who kept house with great suc- 
cess for her adored and adoring uncle Sir Edward Hamley, then 
Commandant of the Staff College (one of whose sympathetic traits 
was a great admiration for my mother) . Thus she was in a favour- 
able situation for operations, and her championship of me included 
a useful element full comprehension of my father's point of view. 
Not so that of Mrs. George Schwabe, daughter of Lord Justice 
James, a clever, hard-riding, whist-playing, particularly cherished 
friend of mine, who as radical, and one justly suspected of unortho- 
dox views on religion, naturally considered this opposition to my 
German plans ridiculous and out of date. So too did Mrs. Napier, 
wife of her first cousin General William Napier (the historian's 
son), who was then in command - or rather Mrs. Napier was in 
command at Sandhurst. This delightful champion of mine had 
rebel blood in her own veins, her father, fierce eagle-eyed Sir 
Charles Napier, whom his daughter was as like as two peas, having 
eloped with her mother, a Greek. It goes without saying that these 
two friends of mine were constant subjects of strife, and if my 
mother, jealous by nature, was especially so in these cases, who can 
wonder? It was all very well for Mrs. Napier to say right and left: 
"Of course dear little Ethel must go to Leipzig" - to say it even 
to my parents themselves, which she did, for she came of a fearless 
stock. She was not my mother, she had not to endure daily scenes 
with my father scenes which became more frequent and furious 
as time went on. For towards the end I struck altogether, refused 
to go to church, refused to sing at our dinner-parties, refused to go 
out riding, refused to speak to anyone, and one day my father's boot 
all but penetrated a panel of my locked bedroom door! . . . 

There was nothing for it but to capitulatel Fraulein Friedlander 
was able, by some miracle, to produce adequate testimony to the 
respectability of her aunt, Frau Professor Heimbach, who lived at 
Leipzig and would certainly be willing to take me under her wing 

Impressions that Remained [1876-77 

till her very own mother had a room at my disposal; the terms sug- 
gested confirmed Mary Schwabe's reports as to the cheapness of 
life in Germany; my father named the maximum of allowance he 
could make me; it was, pronounced to be sufficient, with care; and 
finally, on July 26, 1877, under the charge of Harry Davidson, who 
knew Germany well, I was packed off, on trial and in deep disgrace, 
but too madly happy to mind about that, to the haven of my seven 
years 7 longing. 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 



'From Amelia Ope to My Grandmother, on the Occasion 
of My Father's Engagement to My Mother 

[NOTE. I give this letter chiefly because of the tribute to Bonnetna- 
man; also because I like to think that Mrs. Opie, by that time immersed 
in good works, nevertheless took pleasure in alluding to her former bril- 
liant career in the -world of fashion.] 

Castle Meadow: March 12, 1848. 

My dear Friend, Captain Smyth's engagement to the young lady 
whose lovely mother I met at General Lafayette's in Paris some 
years ago, was an agreeable surprise to me ? and I heartily congratu- 
late you all on so desirable an event. Obliged as he will be some 
months hence to return to his duties in India, I rejoice to learn that 
the pain he may feel in leaving those other duties which he so well 
and affectionately fulfilled at home will be mitigated by the con- 
sciousness that he carries with him to his distant home such a 
charming and accomplished companion as, I am told, the bride is. 

My cough and cold are really better to-day and I hope to be at 
the Deanery on the evening of the i5th of this month and meet 
thy daughter there. 

With kindest regards to thee and thy family, 

I am thy sympathizer and sincere friend, 


FromS. D. (A Schoolboy Admirer ? aged thirteen) 

[NOTE. S. D. -was the son of country neighbours of ours. His great ob- 
session -was to be "gentlemanly" an ambition which somewhat tem- 
pers the ardours of his thirteen years; nevertheless our relations, though 
tender, seem to have lacked the repose characteristic of the type he 
aimed at. It will be noticed that the references to Mary grow more and 
more insistent, and as No. 8 is the last letter of the series, I imagine 
that soon after it was written the usual transfer of affection took place.] 

Impressions that Remained [1848-77 


My very dearest Ethel, I beg and beseech you not to be angry 
with me for not writing before, but I do assure you on my word of 
honour that I have not a bit of time in this beastly place to write 
letters, not even to you. I took your sentence and read it over again 
several times, and when I found out what it meant I was very glad. 
Hurrah, hurrah, the holidays are soon coming and then won't we 
have a lark? Why I declare it will be as good as donkey riding to 
see you skating away as gracefully as a swallow skims the earth, do- 
ing the outside and inside edge which I hear you do splendidly. I 
mean to leam and skate and then perhaps I may have the long 
looked-for pleasure and honour of skating with you. I hope you have 
quite forgiven me for my ungentlemanly conduct, but I assure you 
I did not mean to be hauty and grand, in fact it never entered into 
my mind. I have another thing to ask, if Mary has quite forgiven 
me for getting her into such a scrape and not getting her out of it. 
With the old usual fond love I remain ever 

Your most devoted loving friend for ever, 


My dearest Ethel, I must say I was greatly offended, but how- 
ever there is an old saying "all's well that ends well" and as you 
have greatly improved my temper I have quite forgotten it. Please 
do not say anything more about the locket, it was hardly worth giv- 
ing to you and you know I hate flattery, but then of course I don't 
mind it from you. How is that dear darling BEAST R. S.? I hope very 
ill. If you go to see the Mater will you give my poor old dog a kiss 
from me, and tell Mary to give Jack's dog Sailor one. I know Brin 
will not bite you, because, like his master, he is very particular. . . . 


. . . Have you been riding that happy donkey again, and have you 
been up in the Royal Ethel 1 again? Do you remember our seat at 
the top? Oh those happy rides even on donkeys!! Jack has gone 
back to Harrow. I forgot to tell you one of the R - girls is in love 

1 An oak tree. 

1848-771 ^ e Smyth Family Robinson 

with him but of course he does not return it as his views are some- 
where else!!! * * . 

1 will wear the ring always for your own dear sake. . . . 


... I hope you don't think I was rude that evening in not paying 
you any attention; it was because you were painting and I thought 
you would not care to talk. Now I am going to ask you a serious 
question, but think it well over before you reply; and that is have 
you forgiven me enough to ride with me in the holidays, not on 
donkeys but on ponies? Because I am going to ask the Governor 
to borrow that pony again for me, as he is better than nothing and 
goes splendidly with spurs. Mind you think before you answer. 

In case you should hear of it I daresay you will wonder why I do 
not wear the ring, but that is far too precious to wear at school: 
why, the fellows would have it off and break it in a very short time. 
Was it not odd the other day when some of the fellows were telling 
us ghost stories that one of them should tell the one you told me 
in that dear darling oak tree where I have spent some of the happi- 
est hours of my life about? 

With the fondest love possible,. I remain ever my very dearest 
Ethel your most loving friend for ever. 


P.S. The scratchings out are only mistakes. 


. . . Now that we are friends again I must tell you something I 
was not quite honest about, that is I lost the ring, but still I thought 
I would not tell you just then but wait and see if I would not find 
it: imagine my delight and joy when I found it lying on the washing- 
stand, where it must have been lying several days, and now it is 
looking as pretty as ever on my finger, with the white stone up- 
wards. I am in such spirits about finding the ring that I have been 
jumping about, and have just fallen off my chair: of course that is 
not the only reason; the great reason is that sweet letter from 
you. . . . 

I am sorry to hear Mary and Neaner have colds: colds are such 
horrible things are they not? ... I heard Alice looked charming, 

Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

but I should think she felt rather nervous when she was making her 
bow. 1 should like to see you at your first Drawing Room: you 
would not feel nervous, would you? nor would Mary I should 
think. ... I hope you saw your name in Sheldrake's paper. I am 
pleased to hear he told the truth for once, because of course you 
played beautifully as you always do, because you couldn't help it. 
. . . Remember me kindly to Mary. I dare not send my love be- 
cause old Jack would be angry. . . . 


Dearest Ethel, A million thanks for your charming note: it seems 
a year since I saw you last; not that I shall ever forget the happiest 
days I ever spent in my life, which were at Frimhurst! oh it was a 
jolly time was it not? I am going with the f s to see a cricket match 
between Harrow and Aldershot. I expect we shall get an awful 
licking (I mean Harrow) as they have got the weakest eleven that 
ever was known; at least I should think so. But then you see they 
make up for it by football, which they can lick any school Colledge 
or university at in the world. . . . We are going to the W's which 
is about nine miles off Frimley, and as he has a pony perhaps we 
shall be able to have what I have so long wished for, a pony ride to- 
gether. ... It is all humbug about my liking the youngest Miss ]. 
I only did it to chaff you, only I am afraid I have offended you. 
Knowing your SWEET temper I know you will forgive me because I 
am awfully sorry about it. 

Your loving friend, 


... I am riding such a beautiful cob; people say he does his 18 
miles in the hour. I thought of you and how you would enjoy it. I 
do wish I could come over and see your darling self, but you see 
people won't lend their ponies to do 26 miles, for its 13 from here 
at least. . . . Please, as old Jack is not there, give my love to Mary 
if I may venture to send it. ... 


My dearest Ethel, I daresay you wondered why I did not keep 
my promise in coming to see you, but the Governor made us come 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

up to London or yon may be sure I should not have missed the 
pleasure of seeing you. ... I went to a Pantomime last night and 
enjoyed it as much as I could without you being there. ... I am 
longing for the pleasure of seeing you, once more only. I brought 
the little squirrel up here with me, he is just as tame as ever and 
hops about like a child. . . . 

Please write to me if you can spare the time. I must not ask Mary 
to write or dear old Jack may not like it. ... 

From My Mother 

[NOTE. These early letters of my mother's are included mainly be- 
cause she was my mother. Letters were not her medium, partly owing 
to a rheumatic thumb which often made writing a painful effort. Still, 
given her turn of mind, it is amazing to find her passing on square roots 
as a matter of course, and I think too that the conflict of preoccupa- 
tions in the Confirmation letters will apped to other mamas.] 

(Before our Confirmation) 


My darling Ettie, Your letter interested and pleased me more 
than I can express. God bless you, my two darling girls, and may 
He make this time the turning* point in your lives. What a charm- 
ing person Mr. must be! You must tell him I often think of him 
with a grateful heart for his kind interest in my children. 

Your confirmation dresses are in course of progress and will be, 
I hope, just what they ought to be. I hope your old prints still fit. 
There are two very pretty ones making for each of you, one pink 
and the other blue. 

We dined at the Burrells on Friday and met besides the Rectory 
party that nice little Mrs. Herries and a Captain and Mrs. Hitch- 
cock from the Staff College. Emily looked and was charming; she 
spoke so nicely and affectionately of you both. She was in her black 
and yellow. Her friend Miss Mortimer looked very pretty, but was 
wonderfully dressed, like a jockey, in a pale yellow silk with long 
sleeves, a tight blue satin bodice sleeveless, and blue satin skirt, and 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

blue satin stripes across the yellow sleeves; a very tight yellow silk 
skirt and very bunchy blue satin panier one blue and one yellow 
feather In her hair!! 

We are all going to the Staff College ball on Tuesday and to the 
State Ball on Wednesday, for which Alice has a very pretty new 
blue Balldress. 

You heard what a favorable verdict the doctor gave about 
Johnny on Wednesday. They say there is not the slightest doubt 
of his recovery and that his health is much improved; going to Mr. 
Fry does him a great deal of good and makes him exert himself so 
much more. . . . 

And now my darlings goodbye, 

Ever your fond Mother, 




My darling Child, I fully intend D. V. being present with Alice 
at your Confirmation, and if possible remaining over Sunday to 
take the Eucharist with you, as we do not start for Germany till 
Tuesday 3rd. Have you white gloves? I will send the shawls, veils, 
and all complete with the dresses, and new Jaconet petticoats to 
wear with them. The hats and velvet shall be sent with the new 
prints. I have some difficulty in matching the grey for the skirts 
for the new Spring dresses but shall succeed in time. Meanwhile 
you might wear your red one on cold Sundays and your green petti- 
coats with the grey on bright Sundays. . . . 
I will telegraph when we are to arrive. 

Ever your fond Mother, 



April 23!! Ethel's Birthday! 

Many many happy returns of the day my darling and may you be 
stronger in health by your next birthday and be the dear good girl 
to us this year that you have been sill last. . . . How tiresome about 
the cape! I cannot understand it. Are you sure putting the band a 
little lower will not do? The people have sent you so many things 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

they must know you are not a little girl, but if it really is too small 

send it back with a note giving your height. . . 

The Keatings will lend you a guitar to see how you like it first 
and then we can buy one. God bless you my darling child, and may 
He watch over you and keep you in the right path. 

Your fond Mother. 

P.S. I highly approve of your trying for the Cambridge Local 


Frimhurst: July 1874. 

Ettie darling, It is indeed delightful about dear Alice and we are 
all very happy about it he is such an excellent dear fellow and so 
clever and amusing; he will be a charming ingredient in our family 
circle. I will send the box by Papa who is taking Johnny up to 
Emma Arkwrighf s for a week to be under Hutton I do so pray 
he may do him good. . . . 

Johnny says he has got your letter this morning: the square root 
of 7 J /i is 2-738612 etc. He couldn't quite make out whether the 
second number was 1650 or 1-650. The square root of the former 
number is 41 -.21326 etc., of the latter 1-284523 etc. I enclose a pa- 
per that will shew you how he did it 

We are all looking forward so much to your coming home, my 
darling. ... I do not write more to-tay as I have been quite laid 
up with rheumatism all down my side, and cannot go to the Fitz- 
Roy 7 s Garden Party to-morrow, but dear Mrs. Longman will chap- 
erone the girls. God bless you my child, 

Your loving Mother. 


July 1874. 

My darling Child, I am so glad your chest is better; I think you 
had better not give up painting, dear, unless it makes the pain 
worse, as it is a sedentary employment without much exertion of 
the mind, and therefore a relaxation. . . . 

It appears that when Hutton saw Johnny first he thought worse 
of his hip than of anything else, but when he had examined the 
spine 6 or 7 times he put his finger on a particular place and said: 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

"this is the seat of the mischief 7 and after ordering his back to be 
fomented for two hours he returned, and after considerable manip- 
ulation all at once Reid and Papa heard a sort of click, and Hutton 
said "there! it has now gone back to its place"; but then he worked 
the arm about a good deal which gave poor Johnny exquisite pain 
and exhausted him terribly. He says Johnny must return to him in 
a month. . . . Everyone is so hopeful! When poor F. L. consulted 
Hutton he told him he could do nothing for him, and when he saw 
Johnny he said he could make a cure of him. May it please the Al- 
mighty in His mercy to restore our darling to health! . . . 



My darling Ettie, You see Johnny has taken up your Exam. Pa- 
pers and of his own accord said he should like to help you, which 
is a very good thing for you both. . . . We all went yesterday to 
see some games given by the Highland Brigade. While the "tug-of- 
war" between the Artillery and the 42nd was going on, it was great 
fun to see Papa crouching down, leaning on his umbrella, shouting 
and encouraging the Artillery who ought to have won, but one 
man slipped up and was disabled. . . . 

I think the affair between Captain and Miss will cer- 
tainly come off after all; I have done my best. . . . The guitar shall, 
I promise, be returned to-day. It had been put up in your room, so 
being out of sight was, I fear, out of mind. . . . 


Frimhurst: January 1875. 

Mon enfant cherie, Au contraire }e suis tres contente de ta bonne 
petite lettre, il n'y avait aucune faute de grammaire, ou d'orto- 
graphe, mais de terns en terns une erreur de tournure de phrase. 
Mais ceci ne peut s'acquerir qu'avec une grande habitude de parler 
ou d'ecrire, et meme c'est etonnant que tu fexprimes si bien, ayant 
si peu Toccasion de parler. . . . Mais, ma petite, il faut absolu- 
ment que tu reviennes Lundi prochain. Mary doit s'en a Trelyd- 
don, et Alice en a encore pour trois semaines de sa cuisine a 
Londres, et nous ne pouvons rester sans fille du tout a la maison, 
en ayant 3! ... Bis mille choses gracieuses et aiinables de ma 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

part a Mme. Bourne, en k remerciant de tout coeur pour toute sa 

bonte a ton egard. . . . 


^Written after Johnny 9 s death, while on a first visit to Alice's home. 1 
'was staying with Mary and Charlie.] 

Muirfiouse, Davidson's Mains, Midlothian: Autumn '75. 
Ettie darling, Mind you wrap up well for your trip here on Mon- 
day put on a long-sleeved jersey as if s very cold here. Alice says 
she fears you'll find it dull, but I don't for a moment, for there's 
always someone in the house and they're passionately fond of 
music and understand about it. Then there are always Jeux d'Esprit 
going on, versifying themes, etc. Mr. Davidson is the j oiliest most 
cheery old man in the world, reads everything so well, from Shake- 
spere to a comic song, and they are so warm and kind and affec- 
tionate in their manner, not a bit stiff or formal as I thought they 
would be. As for dear Harry, all his faults are manner, but he is 
really very dear in his own house, so very thoughtful and consid- 
erate. Alice has such an interminable cold that Mr. Davidson, who 
just worships her, calls her "Madame Catarrh." . . . 

I shall leave my ermine muff and collarette behind here for you. 
Tell them at Corbridge not to let anyone come and meet me; it 
must be a trouble as I know they are all busy now, more or less, and 
I am old and ugly enough to take care of Bob and myself. 

God bless you dear. I wish I could have had a peep at you. 

Love to all who like it. 

Your loving Mother. 

. I am rather nervous about my Mary. I hope she has not 
been leaping about too much. 


From Alexander Ewing, Esq., A.S.C. 
(Composer of Jerusalem the Golden) 

[NOTE. Mr. Ewing's letters will hardly interest any but musicians 7 ex- 
cept perhaps No. S a vivid description of a Rubinstein recital and 
the last two letters of farewell from the master, who had missed his vo- 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

cation, to the pupil about to take up her own. No. 9 is the letter -which, 
surreptitiously read by my father, brought my harmony instruction to 
an abrupt end.] 


January 17, 1876. 

Dear Miss Smyth, I am so much obliged to you for the music 
which you have sent (and for the most brilliant of notes!) . I think 
the little Kirchner things are quite of the right sort. 

The large class of our fellow creatures whom you so aptly depict 
in two words, what do they do with the above phrase? When they 
hear the D don't they think the performer has hit a wrong note? 
(I knew one of them once a so-called "Great Musician" too- 
who described Bach's fugues as "those things that sound as if they 
were all wrong.") 

No. 2 is very fresh and bright. I "nod my head" at it as well as 
them, tho" perhaps for other reasons. 

No. 3 would scarce have existed but for Schumann; it dreams 

No. 4. Very Schumannesque. 

No. 5. A gem, not like anybody else. I think might be a genuine 
"popular ballad" of some northern race, dark, true and tender. 

No. 6. Most charming. Like (for one thing) a young dryad danc- 
ing alone in a forest glade (I can't help it if this seems absurd) . 

No. 7, Very new. It says something several times, with great dis- 
tinctness, but as yet I have not gathered what. 

No. 8. 1 think almost too sketchy except the end; and 

No. 9 seems almost perfect. 

I was careful to form all these impressions without looking again 
at what you had said, and now I see you do not always quite agree 
with them. 

"Dodelinette" is nice and pretty, and the last pages evidently 
quite like the clock with the weak heart (or mainspring), 

I send you volume i of Schumann's "Gesammelte Schriften." 
I have little doubt you will like it, and if so, there is another vol- 
ume, when you want it. You must pardon its tattered condition, 
also my most reprehensible habit of scoring passages which strike 
me at particular moments violently with pencil marks, etc. 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

I also send you one of Liszt's most recent things. What would 
those who take such pains to call spades agricultural implements 
say to some of his chords and progressions? Please picture to your- 
self the effect of the orchestration as well as you can, and don't 
miss where the trumpets and trombones come crashing and blazing 
In ff. at the passage "The Archangel Michael . . . FLAMES . . . 
from every window!" 

Very truly yours, 


We are very sorry you are not to be at the theatricals. 

I hope you admire the way my parcels are sealed. A clerk did it, 


Aldershot: March 8, 1876. 

... I think haste is what you have to guard against at present. It 
must be that only which makes you mistake chords and omit char- 
acteristic intervals. 

You know (please think of it now, oh Sturm and Drangi) there 
is no hurry! 
Pardon my preaching and 

Believe me (in haste), etc. 


March 11 (?), 1876. 

... I yesterday went to St. James's Hall to hear Brahms's Sestett, 
which some say is his very best work as yet. It was perfectly divine; 
a real Master-work, quite fit to stand alongside the greatest men's 
productions. Schumann was not wrong when, among the last things 
he said, before the dark clouds veiled him as he "set" on earth, he 
prophesied Brahms's greatness. 

You are very good to have got up the Alto clef. I should like you, 
as soon as you can, now, to get accustomed to the Soprano one 
and then you will have done (in fact you have already done) what 
not every "great" amateur musician has. 

You know that expression "a great muscian," and what (in the 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

mouths of the canaille] it implies? I like to see their faces, when, 
on making acquaintance with one, they say, by way of being pleas- 
ant and polite, "You are a great musician are you not?" 

"That I certainly am not/ 7 is what I generally imply in so many 
words and it is then that they look funny. . . . 


Aldershot: March 14, 1876. 

... As I go on really studying music properly, I feel it more and 
more hateful to do anything else. I feel sure I shall take to it alto- 
gether some day. Meanwhile one must go on "making wings for 
flight" as Goethe says somewhere; and then, when they are ready, 
hey! for the upper ether. 

We have a concert on Monday, I think it will be pretty good. If 
you please we are going to produce R. Wagner, no less! The Wed- 
ding Chorus from Lohengrin! What think ye of that? . . . 


(?) 1876. 

... I am sending you the programme of yesterday, that you may 
look at the motifs of Brahms's Sestett though that will give you 
no idea of the divine manner in which they are worked up. I am 
glad to know that one may write at present; I did not know it when 
I wrote the former sheet ('Twere well, however, to consign the 
present page at once to cremation, were it not?) . . . 

You once asked if I could draw. I can't, but you will find, on 
page 1160 of the programme book, a sketch of George Eliot which 
I did yesterday as she sat in the Concert Room. It really is like her. 
Lewes is a very repulsive creature and two ladies (with brains) 
who were with me shrieked at him worse than I. He "nodded his 
empty head" (I don't forget your hits!) wherever the music was 
lightest and shallowest. During a scherzo, for instance; it went like a 
mandarin's in a tea-shop window. I am far from meaning that it is 
empty except as regards music, for I think some of his writing most 
able but the head that noddles at a scherzo must be empty of 
that. G. Eliot sits and gazes, as if afar, with a great rough powerful 
face. She goes to all these St. J. Hall Concerts, and I should think, 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

and hope, 'twas a real comfort to her great soul ( for a Lewes can- 
not be, that I am sure of) and she is worked harder than any cart- 
horse. 2 . . . 

What an awful day! I think Spring is behind this gale. I long 
for her! 


(?) 1876. 

. . . Not knowing whether you have seen Blackwood for May, I 
just transcribe you, as a sister translator, this specimen of the Eng- 
lish tongue written by a Leipzig student thereof. 

"The Calmness of Charles Xll 

"The King was in his cabin dictating a letter to his Secretary. A 
bomb fell on the house and got through the roof. The Secretary 
turned his confounded looks to the King. 'Well/ said the King, 
Vhat do you have then? why let you fall your pen?* 

" 'Oh, sire, the bomb/ 'Well/ said the King, 'which reference 
has that with the letter I dictate in this moment? 7 and he con- 
tinued dicta-ting with the greatest coldbloodedness." 

Nothing much more delightful in its line has met my gaze for 


(?) 1876. 

... I heard Madame Schumann yesterday play unsurpassably, 
Nos. 2, 5, 4 and 8 of her husband's Kreisleriana. The Concert Room 
was thronged to the roof, and contained Royalty in the front row. 
She is in great form, quite recovered apparently. It is a thing alto- 
gether unparalleled in its way to hear her play his things. It is quite 
as if he were in the midst of us (as doubtless he is) . When one 
thinks of all their story, and looks at her, surviving still to interpret 
him to us, there is a something quite sui generis about it all. 

A pupil of hers whom I know has told me, that she used, some 
years since, to "feel" it a lot that he was not more widely known, 

2 As we know now, Lewes was, on the contrary, George Eliot's greatest 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

and consequently worshipped In this country. The fullness of time 
has brought it about, and she has lived to see it, that he is about 
the best and most widely beloved of all the writers; as witness the 
gathering of yesterday to do honour to her and to him. . . . 


May 3, 1876. 

My dear Miss Smyth, Here followeth some account of Rubin- 
stein's first recital. 

We had made special arrangements of our classes at the Acad- 
emy to admit of our going to this one; so, when pianoforte class 
was over, Franklin Taylor and I started off together, and I swept 
him at my usual rapid pace down Regent Street, being anxious not 
to lose one of the great man's notes. (He can't keep up like you!) 
We were in time, however; his stall was not near mine, and we 
separated. But I was right in the centre of a constellation of friends 
(I may term them so I look on them as a kind of friend, tho' 
they know me not; I owe them all thanks for many a happiness, and 
they belong to our race) la Krebs (only four people intervening be- 
tween us), Mr. Manns, with his strange weird face, and his bril- 
liant eyes, and Sir Julius Benedict Many a time in the course of the 
day I read the same things in their faces that I felt within me. 

Krebs, when in repose, sitting listening to another, not playing 
herself, is very much more thoughtful looking than as we see her 
at the instrument a very refined type of face it seemed, and a 
nice speaking voice. I heard her talking to her friend as we came 
out, in first-rate English. I believe we should like her. 

The great Maestro came on, punctually to his time. 

A strange looking being. At first sight he loomed broad and un- 
couth. I am glad to find he is much younger than I expected I 
should think he is barely my age, but it's not easy to say what his 
age is. His hair is a la Henry Holmes, but much more so. It is about 
as wild as Beethoven's. I suppose it may be brushed sometimes, but 
I should think not as often as it might. 

General effect at the first glance, something like a Bear out of 
the woods. Gave a slight very slight bend of his head, sat 
down, and commenced instanter a prelude of Bach's, no music be- 
fore him, of course, from beginning to end. This bend of his seemed 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

markedly dedaigneux, and that I thought right. The last time he 

was here the people jeered at him. 

He was set down to play a prelude and fugue of Bach's, but he 
did play two preludes and fugues (I quite forget which they were) . 

I thought to myself, "Is he going to be a disappointment?" I 
have heard others play Bach just as well as he did Billow, Krebs, 
etc. There was a wondrous power of finger-touch in rapid passages, 
but that was the only thing at all remarkable about this. 

Scarcely taking breath after them, he commenced a slow move- 
ment of Mozart, with a rondo after it. Immediately we were in a 
new world a world of grace, fairy lightness, and pure, childlike, 
innocent beauty. 

More men than one, you see, evidently, under this bear's hide. 
The most refined woman could not have been more womanly re- 
fined than he was here and yet there was a man's power veiled 
behind it. La Krebs and I were both fetched by this performance, 
and, as by one consent, led off a burst of applause of it. Still he 
scarce took any notice, but launched out almost without a breath 
into Beethoven's great Sonata Appassionata Op. 57. 

The scene changed now, with a vengeance. There came tremen- 
dous rushes and bursts, given with a swaying power, a marvellous 
clearness, a rapid surging and seething and subsiding, which abso- 
lutely electrified the crowd of listeners. (Manns glowed over these 
orchestral effects as well he might.) The slow movement glided 
its way like a gentle river, every shade of it rendered with the most 
loving observance, and the most poetic feeling. Then came the 
most stormy finale. Towards the close of this, he was simply like 
some inspired thing, struggling (and visibly, with every muscle of 
his body) as with a contending demon, till at the close, with a 
mighty grasp and shove, he bound him down and held him r sub- 
servient to his will. 

This rather fanciful language does, I assure you, convey quite 
what it was like to me. 

There was a break in the programme here; he rose up to go out. 
The people fairly shouted at him in a way I have never heard an 
audience shout in England. Now for the first time he made a low 
obeisance. They called him on three times; he came lumbering on 
each time, and bowed again, his tangled mane falling over hi& 

Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

face, and lie taking hold of it awkwardly with one hand to put 
it away. 

And now we all breathed for a while. 

Next came Schumann's Kreisleriana the whole of them. I 
heard (you know) her play some of them. She played them best, 
I think; but he has one advantage over her a Cantabile which 
surely nobody else ever approached, and which must be heard to be 
understood, such is its power, its variety, and its perfection. 

The same three calls on, after these. 

Chopin's Sonata (the one with the Funeral March) came next. 
We read, in that Leipzig notice, how great his playing of Chopin 
is. It was the best thing of all. Totally different to everything else. 
The Funeral March I have known it (or thought so) from child- 
hood. Well, I tell you, (I won't tell anybody else, except perhaps 
my wife) I cried at it like a child! There! I felt that tears must 
come - I tried to keep them back, but back they would not be 
kept they rolled down my cheeks. I can't tell you exactly what 
made them come. He played it with the most utter simplicity 
and yet with such a hidden sort of depth. I think it was more the 
gradual crescendo than anything else which went so to one's heart. 
It was such utter perfection of gradualness. The thing seemed to 
come on and on, and grow and swell, in its simple depth of sad- 

And it went away in the same manner. The passage which was 
fff when it first spoke, was, at the end, though still ff with reference 
to the rest, still soft and distant now; the long mournful cortege 
had, you see, passed on, and was lost in the distance. Nobody 
could move to applaud it. After the last echoes of it ceased to be 
distinguishable, he burst into the finale. 

Three times called on after this Sonata. Then 4 Etudes of 
Chopin's, one of them the one I called "Woe" to you. He read it 
on the same principle I do. They were as marvellous as all the rest. 
The pace at which he took some of them was, almost incredible. 
But as for "missing notes!" . . . Bah! 

He finished with several charming things of his own, but I think 
we were all too used up with emotion to enjoy them as we might 
had not so much gone before. I doubt not they will come back to 
us. The last, a Valse Caprice, was marvellous. He thundered in it, 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

and showered the lightest fair}? pearls, and sang, and played tricksy 
games and, called on 3 times as usual, made his lumbering bows, 
and awkwardly moved back his mane with one of his hands, and 

His face is the strangest compound of beauty and ugliness, the 
masculine, and the feminine. In the profile, the beauty predomi- 
nates the refinement of the profile is striking. The reverse is the 
case with the front face. The playing is something the same mar- 
vellous, nay, gigantic; masculine power and energy, and the utmost 
delicacy of feminine refinement both in every grade of intensity. 
Add to this, touches of every description in a degree of perfection 
which I can't conceive surpassed. 

Heigho! I have given you a "notice'' with a vengeance. I have to 
be up at 7 to-morrow to go to town to Prout, and must now see 
about some sleep. I hope I shall hear from you soon; probably I 
shall to-morrow. 

I am ever most truly yours. 

P.S. I have no doubt we shall find people to say he "thumps" 
too much and that sort of thing. Some of his gestures occasionally 
verge on the ludicrous. 


June 1876. 

... It does strike one with amazement when one sees the enor- 
mous masses of people whose lines go not beyond housekeeping 
and petty scandal. I suppose they are of such a different race to the 
likes of us, that they find an equal difficulty in comprehending 
how we can get on without their pursuits. 

The Queen has been here to-day, but, not being obliged to ap- 
pear, I went not near Her Gracious Majesty. 

In moments or hours of well despondency, which will come 
upon one now and then (this is a continuation of the previous para- 
graph) one sometimes thinks what an uphill struggle it is for our 
race. These other people go calmly sloping along through their nar- 
row restricted orbits; their joys and their sorrows are feeble and dim. 
This we know, (though they do not) because ours flash and blaze, 
and then sink down into the very bulb of the thermometer. We 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

don't know much Rest. Not that we really want to, for Action is the 
Bliss of the Spirit, but the Body cries out for it at times. I suppose 
that is, of course, why so many of us die so young. 

And are they, who go so soon, to be called happy glorious be- 
ings, for instance, like Mozart, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann 
gone away into "das Stille Land" as Uhland names it, just, one 
would think, when this world lay at their feet in all its loveliness? 
For, to us, with all its drawbacks, it is a lovely world and life. What 
race finds so much delight in it as ours? The other tribes do not 
know what it is to us. They rest, and they housekeep, and make 
money, and have, of course, their lesser griefs and gladnesses, and 
stare at us ? and deem us more or less mad, tho ? , very often, not a 
bad sort of folk in our way. Because we treat them much more, 
kindly and considerately than they treat us. They torture and ham- 
per us, and jar our souls, without knowing what they are about; but 
we spare them, and serve them, and do our best for them, and only 
wish to be away from them and among ourselves. But I would we 
knew "whither we are wending" (to quote the familiar church 
song) . 

That the world into which we are wending is not a "Stille Land' 7 
I am convinced but oh, that one knew! If it be not a land of ac- 
tion and of bliss for the Spirit, then, for goodness sake, let us eat, 
drink and be meny in this, which we know something about. But 
all those glorious intelligences which we know (in a degree) as we 
do ourselves, never can merely "go out" as Leibgeber calls it. 

You think, do you not, that of all the Arts ours is the most like 
a clear proof of this? The musician's creations live after his death in 
a peculiar manner which no other artist's do. A picture rots, a statue 
crumbles to dust. A work of Bach's is just as much alive as a work 
of Wagner's; and no more, nor less alive now than when he was 
alive himself. It exists for us on paper, and in performance; two 
kinds of existence, differing in degree perhaps, but the one quite as 
real as the other. At all times the essence of it is the Spirit. An or- 
chestra of equal excellence, which should render a symphony of, 
say, Herz (if there were such a thing) and one of Beethoven 
what would be the essence of the difference between the two 
works? Not the material part. 

(Oh dear! what truisms I am putting down.) 


1848-77] The Smyth Family Robinson 

Then are the works to possess this spiritual existence, and not 
the spirit which produced them? . . . They may; one can't tell. 
But one can't believe it, ... 

Manchester: April 20, 1877. 

I feel disposed to begin with a Jean Paulisches Vorwort * on the 
beginnings of letters, in certain cases. I will not call you "My dear 
Miss Smyth/ 7 1 have tried it lately, but I shall not to-day. It is too 
like the lady in Dickens who always said "Doyce & Clennam, I am 
sure more proper." You and I are, at all events, brother and sister 
artists. The thing that it is most natural to me to call you is "my 
child." And as many other people do so I mean to do it too. One 
thing is, I know you don't mind what I call you, and that after all 
it makes no earthly difference. 

End of the Vorwort or Extra Leaflet. Well then, my dear child, 
to take the end of your letter first, which is full of lie strongest 
things you could say to me. "Gratitude" is surely a misplaced word. 
We helped one another in the old times, and laboured side by 
side. They were happy times. I think no pleasure is so pure and 
great as working at something one loves with a person who is ut- 
terly sympathetic. Well, we had that enjoyment together for a 
good spell. Your mother did for it, effectually. If I spoke out my 
mind I should say with St. Paul (so that the most orthodox could 
find no logical objection) "the Lord reward her according to her 
work." But yet I shall not copy St. Paul herein, for I suppose she 
meant well. At all events since I, so to speak, lost you, my music 
has languished and withered, and at the present hour is dead within 
me. I find it too great a grind to work at it alone. It won't come. 
During latter months at Aldershot, all I did, except indeed reading 
Wagner, was perfunctory, teaching sort of work in harness to 
turn mills for other people. Now even that is over. 

But while I have been going downhill gradually into these deep 
places, you have been going along your upward path, making friends 
with some of the great and noble in the world of Art. You have got 
Madame Schumann's blessing, and you will prosper and flourish. 
I have often said I should yet be proud of my first harmony "pupil" 


Impressions that Remained [1848-77 

(though that Is an improper term) and so I shall. Well had I 
had some 20 years off my back, I might have come along the path 
after, or with you. But those years will not be shaken off. 

I do not yet know Brahms well enough to think so much of him 
as you do. I do not always get within his meaning. I know both 
Sestetts. I heard his last quartett - 1 think in B[? major. I like it 
very much, and I liked the (so-called) "Scherzo" best. It is no more 
a Scherzo than it is an Irish Jig, but it is a superb movement. The 
critics considered it unintelligible! I heard Madame Schumann & 
Co. play her husband's pianoforte quartett just as you say they did. 

As you say, we shall probably meet some day. "Les montagnes 
finissent tou jours par se rencontrer," as says Cherbulliez. (Do you 
know him?) I doubt if we shall over the Wagner Concerts. I only 
can go to one and that the first. I trust you will manage to let me 
know any great events such as your going to Dresden (?) and 
the like. Nobody can be much more interested in what happens 
to you. Though I am in the lows now, don't suppose I shan't man- 
age to make head against them. I ain depayse, and solitary al- 
ways hate new places and new people. Indeed this place and people 
seem rather repulsive to me at first, but no doubt they will im- 
prove. The wrench from Aldershot has been an awful one. . . . 

I, too, have a good many friends of sorts, some new and some 
old. But one thing is certain; there is not one, nor can I suppose 
there ever will be, who can ever oust you from your place. It would 
have to be a second you to do so, and a second you does not exist. 
Now, my dear child, I must bid you good-bye, for the time. Au 
revoir I hope and believe it only is. We won't forget each other, 
nor all the brave old times when we laboured together. Believe me, 
then, always to be most truly yours, 


[On hearing I was really going to Leipzig] 

May 1877. 

My dear Child and Friend, I am so glad! This is really a great 
blessing and coming so much sooner, too, than we could have 
expected. How happy you must be, and how good it was of you to 


1848-77] ^ e Smyth Family Robinson 

write off at once and let me know. Because, after all, nobody can 
rejoice at it more than I do. Ah! were I but coming tool . . . but 
you will tell me all about it ? and I shall always apply to you for the 
latest information and tips. . . . 

. . Ebben; for the present I can no more time presses and I 
want to catch you as early as possible with the heartfelt congratula- 
tions which you know will come from me. Between this and your 
departure we must meet and bid good-bye otherwise than in writ- 
ten words. The address I have given here (don't lose it now!) is 
my office and will always find me. Any time, or where, you think 
we can meet, I will come. Auf Widersehn. 

Most truly yours, 


Part II 


CHAPTER XIV. Summer 1877 

J3EFORE embarking on the story of that happiest epoch of an 
artist's life, the spell of hard, hope-ridden work which lies between 
self-dedication and the endeavour to capture the interest of an in- 
different world, it should be pointed out that the scene of that 
golden time was nothing less than a lingering bit of the dear old 
Germany of Heine and Goethe, doomed presently to vanish under 
the stress of Imperialism. 

In those days there was a feud between Saxony and Prussia; Han- 
over considered herself an aristocratic breakwater against floods of 
vulgarity setting in from other states, and Bavaria hated them all 
impartially. This condition of things preserved exactly what Em- 
pire tends to destroy, an individual, dignified, self-sufficing life in 
each state. As Goethe has said, talent can only thrive in peace and 
retirement, and in the days when little German courts and middle- 
sized provincial towns were contentedly working out their own sal- 
vation, you got hundreds of quiet, beautiful gardens of art. These 
Empire sweeps away; competition with other countries ends in the 
industrialization of everything, including music, and when, more 
than a quarter of a century later, I revisited Leipzig, I found that 
was exactly what had happened; there, as elsewhere, a flashy chapter 
was being enacted that made one think with sadness and longing 
of past days. 

Whether the war, which has brought so many chapters to an 
abrupt end, will restore dignity to Art remains to be seen, but in 


1877] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

any case the old setting is lost for ever. For this reason and not only 
because I loved it so dearly, it seems worth while recording my im- 
pressions of a by-gone epoch as minutely as I propose to do. 

Of the journey I remember little, except that soon after crossing 
the Dutch frontier the train made straight for a distant range of 
mountains, and suddenly there was an opening in the chain, through 
which we passed with the river that had cloven it. This spot, one of 
the great gates into Germany, which is like the Guildford gap in 
the Hog's Back on a huge scale, I have often seen again and never 
without a thrill. And then came a still more poignant moment, the 
slowing down through hideous suburbs, and the indescribable emo- 
tion with which I read the word "Leipzig" on the platform board. 
We had breakfast at the little old Hotel de Rom hard by, and sallied 
forth to find Frau Professor Heimbach's dwelling, the romantic 
name of which was Place de Repos, Treppe G. 

Reposeful it certainly was, being a large block of a building well 
off the road 7 jammed in between two other equally hideous blocks; 
romantic no one could call it, but what of that? Between me and it 
hung a veil woven of youth and hope the strongest web of ro- 
mance; and as we stepped under a dingy archway into a courtyard 
leading to "Treppe G/ 7 I was passing through the Gate named 
Beautiful into the Chosen City. We clambered up three pairs of 
rotten wooden stairs, my brother-in-law curiously sniffing the odours 
that lingered about them odours which I really believe are the 
monopoly of the two or three sluggish streams Leipzig is built on, 
one of which, the Pleisse at its worst, crawled by close to our house. 
A stout, shy, motherly person, clad in what I afterwards knew was 
her best gown, greeted us very pleasantly, and informed us (or 
rather Harry Davidson, for her Leipzig accent utterly defeated the 
little German I had) that I should not be cut off from England, in 
that she harboured another lodger a "charmanter Junge" Mr. B., 
nephew of a well-known potentate connected with Punch and a 
protege of Frau Schumann's. 

We deposited my luggage, inspected my room and the short 
wooden bedstead with a mountainous feather bed on it, and started 
off to view the town, which Harry had known in the past. 

Even then it was full of charm; the walls and fortifications were 

Impressions that Remained [1877 

gone, all except the Pleissenburg, which, placed in an angle, pulled 
the whole inner circle of the old town together, and though really 
unbeautiful in itself, managed to look imposing, with its squat tower 
and sturdy bulk. The "ditch," as the Germans call it, had been filled 
in and planted as a Promenade ages ago, and above it, on our side 
at least for we were just without the Altstadt the tall, narrow, 
tile-roofed houses of Diirer's pictures towered in a curve above the 
rise they were built on, and beautifully caught the evening light. 
Close to us, on the fringe of the old town, was the Thomas Kirche, 
where Bach played the organ, and the Thomas Schule, of which 
he was Cantor; this is the only dwelling-place of the Great Dead 
that ever moved me, hideous though it was. They have pulled down 
the Pleissenburg and the picturesque old mill beyond it, but I trust 
the Rathhaus is still standing. Not very superb late Renaissance, it 
is nevertheless a fascinating building, with its copper-clad pinnacles 
greened by verdigris, and the warm, sombre colour of the brick. In 
my time there were periodical agitations to clear it away, as also to 
widen three or four narrow streets close by, in which were still some 
fine old houses, but the Philistines were always overborne. 

We lunched at the best restaurant in the town, Harry remarking 
it would reassure my father to hear what we had eaten for about 
tenpence each, and then walked out into the Rosenthal, a sort of 
park and wood combined quite pretty in a stiff style, but reputed 
to smell of garlic in the spring to a degree that disconcerted even 
the most ardent lovers. Here I made my first amazed acquaintance 
with the well-known signboards "Verboten" on which the German 
Empire is ran, and which met us at every turn; I had thought grass 
was meant to walk on, but evidently this was a mistake. 

A peculiarity of Leipzig was that the space between the varnished 
walls and the promenade was carved up into minuscule gardens 
about the size of a largish chapel in Westminster Abbey, which were 
let to everyone who chose to apply. We had a rendezvous at four 
o'clock to drink afternoon coffee with Frau Professor in her garden, 
the approximate spot being described beforehand, and a promise 
given that Mr. B., whom we had not yet seen, would be on the look- 
out for us. A very untidy youth of the artistic type, with a shock of 
fair hair hanging into his eyes, whose appearance would have dis- 
gusted my father, duly met us and conducted us to our garden, 

1877] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

where Frau Professor and her niece Fraulein Friedlander had every- 
thing in readiness. In each of the gardens were a tiny summer-house 
and three or four trees; ours boasted no flowers, but, to our amaze- 
ment, imbedded crazily in the shingle were five croquet hoops; and 
here after coffee did we start the most fantastic game of croquet I 
ever played, Fralein Friedlander and Harry against B. and me. If you 
could not get through your hoop because of a tree, you simply 
shifted the hoop, manipulating the angle a little to your advantage. 
B. was a player of the violent type whose great object was to cannon 
off the trees, as if by accident, right into the summer-house where 
Frau Professor and her cat were ensconced with their knitting. I say 
their knitting, because we were told if the needles stopped one mo- 
ment the cat became restless and wandered off into the neighbour- 
ing gardens. When the balls began flying about, Frau Professor 
calmly piled up the crockery for safety behind the summer-house, 
and resumed her place, well tucking up her feet on the bars of an- 
other chair; and I said to myself, an old lady with such sound nerves 
must surely be easy to live with. 

After that there was a gala supper in our flat; I remember we had 
partridges stuffed with sauerkraut, which were pressed on us as being 
"fein und begannt" This phrase I meditated for a year or so, and 
eventually found out "begannt" was the Saxon for "pikant" My 
brother-in-law, fortunately a smoker, was finally conducted down- 
stairs by B., aided by the light of his own matches, leaving me to 
my first night under a German roof. Next day I saw him off from 
the station, and began life in a state of wild enthusiasm that trans- 
formed the little round rolls into manna, the thin coffee dear to 
Leipzigers into nectar, and even invested the sanitary arrangements 
with a sort of local-colour appropriateness. The only water the Town 
Council supplied in Place de Repos was a thin trickle from a tap 
in the kitchen, but as I was equal to cold tubs in those days this 
was of no consequence. 

My diagnosis of my landlady's character proved correct; an easier, 
more philosophic temperament would be hard to find, and with 
B. to interpret, the accent difficulty was soon got over. But it was 
not till later days that one wrong impression was put right. When 
Fraulein Friedlander had spoken of her aunt, widow of Professor 
Heimbach, we imagined the title implied high university honours, 

Impressions that Remained [1877 

as in cases like Dafwin and Huxley; face to face with the lady, one 
could only suppose her eminent husband had risen from the ranks 
and married in earliest youth. Later I discovered that he was wholly 
unknown to fame, and indeed I was never able to learn which uni- 
versity had conferred his title on the late Herr Professor Heimbach. 

Young B. turned out to be a harum-scarum, harmless sort of youth, 
whose parents had evidently dispensed with his presence during the 
summer holidays, for, as I now learned, the Long Vacation was in 
full swing. In my zeal to leave England I had omitted to make 
enquiries as to when the Conservatorium term began, and the place 
would be shut for a month yet; so as Fraulein Friedlander, her 
mother, and Fraulein Redeker of the Liebeslieder Wdzer also a 
Leipzig young lady were to spend a fortnight in the Thiiringer 
Forest, it was suggested I should accompany them. Fraulein 
Redeker, as I said before, was one of my "passions," and when in- 
formed that Henschel was to join the party later, I had some notion 
of the unutterable happiness that was in store for me. 

But only a vague notion, for what that first sojourn with real 
musicians in a little wooden house on the verge of the forest turned 
out to be, what words can tell? Let it be remembered that never in 
my life had I met anyone capable of judging whether or not I was 
the bom musician Mr. Ewing proclaimed me, and after all he him- 
self was but a gifted amateur. Here I found my compositions listened 
to by a man who himself was a composer, who as regards musical 
equipment was on a level with Brahms or anyone else in the great 
music world, and on his and other faces I read the desired verdict. 
But the chief bliss was less personal than that. Henschel is one of the 
superbly cultivated musical temperaments you find only in Ger- 
many and Austria; I have listened to many at work, but have never 
heard anything to compare with his singing to his own accom- 
paniment of course of Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven in fact 
any and every composer. He would sit down at the rickety old piano 
in our lodgings, and all the things in musical literature I had ever 
wanted to hear, not to speak of others I had never even heard of 
(including his own "first fine careless rapture," Trompeter Lieder)? 
were poured out before me. As some people rejoice in having seen 
Venice for the first time by moonlight, so I am thankful the Gruppe 
aus dem Tartarus was first made known to me by Henschel, and in 

1877] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

my eyes this dear old friend, whom in after years even my father 

came to be fond of, was like a god. 

We used to take long walks, making for one of the beerhouses 
dotted about the forest, which superior people laugh at, but which 
I delight In, on our way singing Volkslieder in parts, the nearest 
thing to the improvisations of Slav gipsy orchestras I ever took part 
in. One day we got lost; it was stiflingly hot, the woods smelt like a 
great bath of pine-extract, and we felt we should die if we did not 
soon find our beerhouse. Suddenly we carne on it round a corner, 
and to my last hour I shall remember the first glass of beer drunk 
that day! Henschel had just been somewhere with Brahms; and 
after telling us the great man's new symphony was to be produced 
at the Gewandhaus concerts, conducted by the composer, in the 
coming season, I remember his presently pointing to me and saying 
laughingly to the others: "Look at that face! 7 ' . . . Thrice in my 
life for a brief space I have been in Heaven, and the first time was 
in Thuringia. 

One souvenir of that radiant fortnight remains with me. I always 
called Redeker "die Konigin" because, as I think I mentioned, it 
was from her lips I first heard Wie bist du meine Konigin; so I 
cut out a cardboard crown, of the spiky Neptune kind, and induced 
her to be photographed sitting on a chair, I myself standing behind 
it in the act of crowning her. She afterwards married a well-known 
London physician, and as Lady Semon still possesses this treasure. 

CHAPTER XV. Autumn 1877 

WHILE in Thuringia I had found out, to my horror, from two 
lodgers of Frau Friedlander's who were of the party, that in that 
house the piano was going all day, and that composing would have 
to be done, if at all, at night. I was in despair, but eventually a 
peaceful reshuffling of pensionnaire livestock took place between the 

Impressions that Remained [1877 

sisters-in-law, and when we returned to Leipzig I settled down with 
Frau Professor for good and all Somehow or other the fact that 
the only other lodger was a young man must have escaped the lynx- 
eyes at Frimhurst, for I cannot remember any fuss being made 
about It. 

There was yet a week or so of idleness before the beginning of the 
term. I had been given a letter of introduction to one Leipzig big- 
wig, head of the great publishing firm Brockhaus, but had no idea 
of mortgaging my freedom yet awhile, so merely explored the town, 
enquired into prices, found out what music it was possible to hear 
in the slack season, and generally looked about me. My first dis- 
covery was that the place was full of French names like Place de 
Repos ___ relics of the Napoleonic era, which a monarch with more 
historical sense and less Kultur than his grandson had not thought it 
necessary to Germanize. If our old block still exists, which is not 
likely, no doubt it is now called "Ruheplatz." There were many 
other links with the French past, and I came to know an old lady, 
last survivor of one of the great burgher families, who stood with 
me in the window whence she had watched Napoleon ride out of 
the gates to the battle of Leipzig; she told me he looked "cross and 
insignificant 7 '! 

One day I saw that Hoffmann's Serenade in D, a piece of music 
I particularly wanted to hear, was to be played next evening at an 
open-air concert in the Rosenthal Restaurant, and announced that 
I meant to be present. Frau Professor said this was impossible, that 
no young girl could go to a place like that by herself and she un- 
fortunately could not take me as next day was "Grosse Wdsche" 
This was the great washing festival held once a month in house- 
holds such as ours, which, judging by an unsavoury mountain of 
dirty linen in a certain cupboard, was overdue. The idea of going 
with B. was ruled out of the question, so I hit upon a plan which 
this capital old lady somewhat reluctantly fell in with. I hired grey 
corkscrew curls and a large pair of horn spectacles, borrowed her 
thickest veil and her gown, which, after I had swathed myself in 
newspapers tightly tied on with string, and added other contrivances, 
was a perfect fit. Having finally painted in appropriate wrinkles, I 
sallied forth to the Rosenthal, sat down with a piece of knitting (for 


1877] Germany and T<wo Winters in Italy 

showj/only) at a small table, and asked for beer and a "Schinken 
Brodchen" that is buttered roll with ham in the middle. 

It was a warm September night and the garden was full of burgher 
f amilies, seated like me at little tables with beer and ham, and listen- 
ing religiously to the really excellent music in short it was the 
Germany of my dreams. The only illumination was Chinese lan- 
terns, but even by daylight I, my stoop, and my hobble would proba- 
bly have passed muster. I looked about and saw B. sitting with two 
stout German youths, and presently I went up and asked him some 
question in a quavering old voice, explaining that I knew no Ger- 
man. The Serenade, a charming piece of music by the by, and every- 
thing else I heard that night, enchanted me, and by eleven o'clock 
I was unlocking our house door and picking my way by the light of 
the usual match, among horrible islands of assorted "Wdsche" to 
my room. Frau Professor was so well broken to English eccentricity, 
and so convinced that sons and daughters of our race can look after 
themselves, that she never even sat up for me a fact which raised 
her immensely in my estimation. I had heard from B., whose room 
was next hers, that she snored more powerfully than ten strong 
men, owing, he thought, to the shape of her nose, which was snub 
and flat, like a small funnel driven inwards by a blow from a ham- 
mer. As I passed her door I observed that for once he had spoken 
the truth, being otherwise one of the harmless, improbable liars 
young men of his type often are. 

Next day at lunch I suddenly repeated my question of the night 
before in the same quavering voice, and for a moment B. looked as 
if he were going mad, but he promised to keep the secret. When I 
became a Conservatorist I found I was already famous, this young 
man, who was always cadging for invitations, having supped out on 
that story ever since. But it never got to Frimhurst, which was the 
main point. 

A few days before she left for London, Fraulein Friedlander took 
me to pay an eagerly awaited visit, for this was to be my introduction 
to the Leipzig music world. Again a climb up three pairs of rotten 
stairs, in one of the hideous buildings which flanked Place de Repos; 
and an hour later, sitting at tea real tea with my new friends, 


Impressions that Remained [1877 

Herr Concertmeister Rontgen, leader of the Gewandhaus orchestra, 
and his family, I had found an answer to the question: "What went 
ye out for to seek?" In those walls was the concentrated essence of 
old German musical life, and without a moment's hesitation the 
whole dear family took me to their bosom. 

It all began with a little sonata I had written, a certain Bfr in which 
proved to be the key to their hearts. He was Dutch by extraction, 
distant cousin of the X-ray discoverer as great a gentleman and 
as true a musician as I have known. She was of the old Leipzig musi- 
cal stock Klengel, a family that could raise a piano quintet among 
themselves, and together with their Rontgen cousins a small orches- 
tra. Every violin sonata, every piano trio or quartet printed, would 
Frau Rontgen or her daughter tackle the mother's performance 
unplaned perhaps, but of a fire and musicality that carried all before 
it. Their one servant was seldom a cooking genius and always needed 
supervision, and between two movements of a trio Frau Rontgen 
would cry: "Line, thou canst take the Scherzo," and fly off to the 
kitchen, Line replacing her on the music stool till eagerly swept off 
it again. I remember one occasion when dear old Papa Rontgen, 
as we used privately to call him, who had a delicate digestion, com- ' 
plained of the egg-dish (I do not know how else to translate that 
basis of German existence "die Eier-Speise"), and his wife said with 
simple contrition: "Yes, I know, it is my fault, I ought to have 
waited to see her brown it ... but thou knowest how I love that 

Their son Julius, composer, viola-player, pianist, and all the rest 
of it, is, I think, still head of a music academy and conductor at 
Amsterdam, but Line took to marriage and babies and rather 
dropped her music. To see Julius and his mother playing pianoforte 
duets was a sight that would nearly overwhelm strangers, the mo- 
tions of their spirits being reproduced by their bodies in dramatic 
and absolutely identical gesture. This is what made the spectacle 
so curious; you could not believe but that some unseen power wa& 
manipulating a duplicate set of invisible wires. At the tender parts 
of the music they would smile the same ecstatic smile to themselves, 
or in extreme cases at each other; in stately passages their backs 
would become rigid, their elbows move slightly away from their 
sides, and their necks stiffen; at passionate moments they would hurl 


1877] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

themselves backwards and forwards on their chairs (never sideways, 
for they respected each other's field of action) and the fervour or 
ferocity of their countenances was something I have only once seen 
equalled by Sada Yacco's rejected admirer on the Japanese stage. 
It was all so natural and sincere that though you could not help 
smiling sometimes, it never interfered with your enjoyment, once 
you knew them well enough. 

If any surviving members of that dear family should ever read 
these lines, I cannot think, knowing my devotion to their mother 
and how I reverenced her, that they will resent my poking a little 
harmless fun at her and Julius. It was merely an excrescence on the 
very thing I am extolling the intimate, you may really say do- 
mestic, quality of music-making in those days. 

Johanna, the eldest daughter, a particular friend of mine, was a 
character, and one of the most musical of people, though she played 
no instrument already a sign of originality in that family. She was 
one of the few critics I listened to with respect, and had a phenome- 
nally fine ear. Once I made her sit down sharply on the keyboard 
and tell me what notes were sounding; she began with the lower and 
upper ones, a trifle of course to such as her, but with the rest she 
was equally successful, as far as her bulk would let me check them. 
She would say, beginning from the bass: "d, dj no e f, f$ 
then nothing till bty" and so on, till the echoes died into silence. 
Let any musician, choosing a slim collaborator if possible, try this 
and see how difficult it is. Johanna had little or no voice, and what 
there was of it was poor in quality, but no sheep dog ever kept his 
flock in better order than she the altos in choral singing. 

She was religious and of a Lutheran turn of mind altogether a 
slightly different thing to the Nonconformist conscience but of the 
same family in spite of which, finding out that she did not know 
Maupassant, I rashly lent her a carefully selected volume of his 
stories. But next day she gave it back with a wonderful snort of 
which she had the secret, conveying remonstrance with me, pride 
in her own incorruptibility, and confidence in Germany's power to 
finally crush creatures like Maupassant. In moments of excitement 
she spoke almost as broad Saxon as Frau Professor herself, and I 
cannot refrain, for the benefit of those who know the dialect, from 
giving her immortal words on that occasion: "Ne, ich danke dir, so 


Impressions that Remained 

*nen Dreck les ich nidi! da geniegt mer schon mei Shakespere und 
mei Geeder ("No, I thank thee, such filth will I not read. My 
Shakespere and my Goethe suffice unto me/') Later I was to find 
out that this is the usual opinion in Germany of modern French lit- 
erature, though seldom so forcibly expressed. 

There was one more belonging to that household, a dear Swedish 
girl called Amanda Meyer, violinist and composer, who afterwards 
married Julius; and then for the first time I saw a charming blend 
of art and courtship very common in those days. Thus it must have 
been In Bach's time, thus with the old Rontgens, but I don't see 
how it can come off quite in the same way under modern conditions. 

Thinking of differences between then and now, what most strikes 
me is the fact that very often of an evening these families would com- 
bine to make music among themselves. Not only that, but on every 
other Sunday members of the quartet Papa Rontgen led, the cellist 
of which was his nephew Julius Klengel, would come to his flat and 
play all afternoon. Sometimes of course they rehearsed one of their 
repertory numbers, but these meetings were mainly for the pleasure 
of making music. Then there was leisure in the world to love and 
practise art for its own sake, and that, that, is the tender grace of 
those dead days! . . . 

Shortly before the war Kreisler told me a horrible thing; he said: 
"I have visited every town in the world, almost, of over a hundred- 
thousand inhabitants, and of them all I know only the railway sta- 
tion, the hotel, and the concert hall." I exclaimed it was a hideous, 
degrading life; why did he go on with it? He spoke of relations to 
support, financial crises, and so on; and when I uttered the German 
equivalent of "Bosh!" he replied: "Yes, you are right; one gets into 
the groove and can't or won't get out of it." . . . This is the sort of 
madness of which I wish the war would purge the world. 


1877-78] Germany and T<wo Winters in Italy 
CHAPTER XVI. Winter 1877-78 

XlLT the time I signed on as pupil of the Conservatorium, that in- 
stitution was merely trading on its Mendelssohnian reputation, 
though of course we in England did not know that. The first person 
the neophyte would come into contact with was a horrible old door- 
keeper, Castellan A,, relic of the Golden Age, who refused to do 
even the smallest of his duties, such as deliver a letter, without a tip. 
Life was then on a scale that made a halfpenny a matter of long dis- 
putes between Frau Professor and her tradesmen, hence one penny 
was considered by our tyrant a satisfactory gratuity, but I never 
grudged a penny more bitterly. The real fountain of the universal 
slackness was of course the then Director, an old friend (?) of 
Mendelssohn's, who had reached the age when, in some natures, 
thoughts of duty cease from troubling, scruples are at rest, and 
nothing but emoluments and pleasures and his were not well 
spoken of are taken seriously. 

The three masters I had to do with were Reinecke, conductor of 
the Gewandhaus concerts, for composition; Jadassohn, a well-known 
writer of canons, for counteqpoint and theory generally; and Maas 
for piano. The lessons with Reinecke were rather a farce; he was one 
of those composers who turn out music by the yard without effort or 
inspiration, the only emotion connected with them being the ever- 
bofling fury of his third wife a tall, thin woman with a mop of 
frizzy black hair at the world's preferring Brahms's music to that 
of her adored husband. There were always crowds of children prowl- 
ing about the corridor of his flat, and he was unable to conceal his 
polite indifference to our masterpieces, taking up his pen to resume 
his own before we had got to the door. Jadassohn's classes, held in 
the Conservatorium, were at least amusing, but equally farcical as 
instruction; their official length was forty minutes, and when he 
arrived, always a quarter of an hour late, it was to stand with his 
back to the stove for another ten minutes telling us exceedingly 
funny stories with the Jewish lisp I came to know so well in Ger- 
many. He diligently set us canons and other exercises, but there was 
seldom time even to look at the work we brought, much less correct 
our mistakes. Maas was a conscientious but dull teacher, and if Frau 


Impressions that Remained [1877-78 

Schumann, when I came to know her later, used to say she didn't 
mind hearing, but couldn't bear to look at me playing, owing to the 
way I managed my hands, it was probably more my fault than his. 

At rst I was astonished at the lack of musical enthusiasm among 
my fellow students; gradually I came to realize these girls and boys 
had come there merely to qualify for teachers 7 certificates, and cer- 
tainly whatever flame may have been in their bosoms to start with 
was bound to burn low in the atmosphere of superficiality and in- 
difference our masters distilled. The glorious part was the rest of 
the music life, the concerts and the opera. In modern Germany, 
and everywhere else except Austria, some special conductor, or the 
performance of some crack orchestra, is what attracts the public; 
people who will throng to hear Mr. A/s quartet play anything and 
everything would not cross the street to hear the same works per- 
formed by any other four, all of which is the result of boom of 
course. But at Leipzig in those days you went simply to hear the 

The twenty Gewandhaus concerts were conducted one and all by 
Reinecke, and though in other towns the custom of playing excerpts 
from Wagner had been started, such a thing was taboo in those 
sacred walls. Not even the overtures of his operas were tolerated, 
and I remember an all but successful attempt to bar the Siegfried 
Idyll. This quite orthodox concert-piece was so ill-received, several 
of the permanent subscribers staying away to mark their indignation, 
that the experiment was not repeated. You could not call Reinecke 
an inspiring conductor, but at all events he let the music do its own 
business; there were no carefully thought-out effects, no rushings 
and dawdlings, no "Reinecke touches"; in short there was nothing 
between you and the thing itself, which is just the quality that moves 
one to the depths, as I said elsewhere, listening to Patti on the 
gramophone. I suppose jaded palates cannot get on without these 
artificial stimulants, but it was glorious, when I was in Vienna the 
winter before the war, to find a public too fresh and keen to need 

What a curious place that old Gewandhaus was! Built, as its name 
"Cloth-Hall" indicates, for anything but music, and in defiance of 
all known laws of acoustics, its sonority was nevertheless perfect. 


1877-78] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
Acoustics are queer things so queer that, pondering them, imagi- 
nations run riot. An old gentleman from Magdeburg once told us 
how a door had been opened in the wall of some concert-room, to 
the complete destruction of its sonority. Horrified, the Town Coun- 
cil blocked up the door again with the very same bricks "aber es 
nutzte nichts hin war die Akustik!" (it was of no use the 
sonority was gone) . In spite of the delicate touch about the bricks 
it had walked off in disgust to return no more. . . . The Gewand- 
haus tickets were almost all subscribed for, and only by intrigue or 
charity could you get one. But the rehearsals the day before were 
supposed to be the real thing, especially as they only cost two shil- 
lings and to us Conservatorists nothing at all. Old ladies used to 
bring their knitting to the concerts in those days, an enchanting 
practice, as stimulating, I am sure, to aesthetic enjoyment as a ciga- 
rette; but it was put down as bourgeois" in the smart new concert 
hall built three or four years later . . . alas! alas! . . . 

The chamber music, in the beautiful "Little Saal" behind tie 
other, was on the same lines, simple, sincere, and run by local men; 
and as the Director of the Stadt Theater was that go-ahead old gen- 
ius Angelo Neumann a man who scented out talent as a pointer 
marks down game and the orchestra practically the same as played 
in the Gewandhaus, the opera was probably at its best then. 

One chapter in an old-fashioned tale for children called "The 
Story without an End" begins: "As for the child he was lost in a 
dream of delight"; so it was with me during iny first season in Leip- 
zig. Great art joys may come to you in later life, but nothing can 
ever equal a first hearing of Beethoven's A Major Symphony, or 
Schubert's C Major Quintet, in the company of kindred spirits like 
the Rontgens and others then unknown to me for my greatest 
musical friendship was yet to be. When the orchestra was tuning 
for my first Beethoven symphony, I remember trembling all over 
like a horse at covert side, and being far too agitated to note the 

In October Frau Schumann played at a chamber-music concert, 
and B. walked Place de Repos with a halo, for his was to be the 
privilege of turning over for her, she and his father being very old 
friends. Before a concert, being the most nervous of women, she 
habitually wept in the artists' room, declaring to the last moment 


Impressions that Remained [1877-78 

she could not possibly go on to the platform; surely then a greater 
sacrifice to old friendship could not be imagined than associating 
herself in public with this near-sighted, abnormally clumsy youth. 
Of course the worst happened; at one moment the music was on 
Frau Schumann's knees, thence violently shot by her on to the 
floor, but mercifully there was no break in the performance. A very 
few months later I got to know her intimately; she was subject to 
rather lovable attacks of fury, just like a child, and was very funny 
on the subject of B. I thought of her years afterwards when attend- 
ing one of Madame Lind-Goldschrnidt's singing classes, in the 
course of which two pupils left the room in tears. The old school 
had no patience with stupidity. 

During the early part of the winter an event happened which 
even now it almost turns me pale to think of, and oddly enough 
two scenes in the drama were played on the frozen pond of the 
Johannisthal. I was working terrifically hard, among other things 
practising the piano five hours daily, and had made rather friends 
with a flibberty-gibbet of a Swiss girl, a Miss Heimlicher, whom I 
persuaded to skate with me at the only hour that did not interfere 
with my work, before breakfast. There was also a certain young 
Englishman who paid me much attention, and even went so far, 
after I had fainted one day on the ice and come to with my head 
on his knee, as to propose marriage. If I mention the fact it is be- 
cause it is pertinent to the story not in a spirit of boasting; for I 
have always believed the two or three men who have thus honoured 
me knew perfectly well there was not the slightest danger of their 
being accepted, so were free to indulge in that priceless luxury of 
the young, an unrequited attachment. 

One day Frau Professor said to me: "It is a pity Fraulein Heim- 
licher associates so much with that Miss B., for she has a very bad 
reputation." This was a clincher. I had already caught certain re- 
marks in the Conservatorium, and felt that steps must be taken, so 
at last I told my friend what I had heard. She was much agitated 
and asked what she should do. Having, in spite of my folly, some 
rudiments of common sense, and an English dread of libel laws, I 
said: "Say nothing, but gradually drop her." My memory is cate- 
goric on that point. Miss Heimlicher thanked me profusely, said 

1877-78] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
I was a true friend, and for a few days I saw nothing of her. . . . 
The next thing was a lawyer's letter, handed in by an official, com- 
manding my appearance in three weeks 7 time in court, on a charge 
of libel brought against me by Miss BJ . . . 

Now it must be remembered that one of my father's reasons for 
refusing his consent to my leaving home was that he fancied I was 
a spendthrift, and that my mother's diamonds would one day have 
to be sold to pay my debts; also that my allowance was only just 
enough to meet my needs. I knew the terrific penalties enforced in 
English libel cases, and for an hour or two my heart seemed con- 
tinually on the point of ceasing to beat. I turned over in my mind 
what was to be done, whose advice could be asked. Either because 
I did not know her well enough, or from pride, or some other reason, 
I ruled out Frau Rontgen and eventually, knowing he was a kind, 
shrewd old fellow, I confided in Jadassohn. "You must have a law- 
yer," he said. A lawyer! where was the fee to come from? But 
Jadassohn had a good friend, one Ernst Meyer, a devilish clever 
fellow; he would give me a line to him saying I was his pupil, and 
the cost would be nothing to speak of, half a crown perhaps but 
not more. He looked up the address, off I started, rang a bell, and 
was ushered into the office of the most odious, inhuman, filthy old 
scoundrel I ever beheld. Alas! though kindness itself, Jadassohn was 
more than casual, and there being about twenty Ernst Meyers in 
the address book, several of whom were in the legal profession, he 
had picked out the wrong one, as I found out when it was too late! 
This repellent person read the letter and must certainly have known 
there was a mistake somewhere, but merely enquired what my busi- 
ness was, informed me I had not a leg to stand on, and would I 
please hand over ten marks to start with? I had only six with me, 
gave him five of these on account, and after certain notes were 
taken, asked anxiously what sort of penalty was to be expected. 
With an icy-cold indifference, for which I hope he is now burning 
elsewhere, he replied: "Impossible to say; anything from a hundred 
to a thousand marks. Good morning/* 

A hundred to a thousand marks! that is, from five to fifty pounds! 
I walked out of that office as near despair as I have ever been in 
my life, and determined to go for advice to our Director. The old 
monster received me more in sorrow than in anger, said he had 

Impressions that Remained [1877-78 

heard of this distressing matter, and that it was a terrible thing to 
blast the fair fame of one of his children (for thus, so I was told, 
he looked upon all the three hundred of us). Painful though it 
might be, he feared I deserved the lesson I was about to receive, 
and that Justice must run her course; it was not for him to inter- 
fere. . . . 

What next? . . . I collected my "grandeurs" (a few lockets and 
an old watch), told the whole story to my admirer, pressed a parcel 
into his hands, and besought him to sell the contents for me. Next 
day he produced about three pounds, feared it was very little, but 
assured me he had done his best. Years afterwards, having acquired 
knowledge of market values, I came to the conclusion that if he got 
ten shillings for the lot he did wonders, and that the balance must 
have come out of his own slender pocket. 

My next move was quite fantastic. Among the skaters was a nice- 
looking man about thirty, who I somehow found out was a lawyer, 
and actually counsel for the plaintiff! I forthwith introduced my- 
self and, no doubt to his intense astonishment and amusement, 
begged his advice on my sad case. He was very kind and sympa- 
thetic, and finally said: "You must have heard this report from 
someone else; well, if that person won't come forward you are per- 
fectly entitled to name him or her as your authority, and there's 
an end of the thing as far as you are concerned." As a matter of 
fact I had just mentioned the subject of responsibility to Frau Pro- 
fessor, but was met with such floods of tears, and such implorings 
not to take the bread out of the mouth of a widow, that I was re- 
morseful for having spoken. So I thanked the lawyer and said I did 
not see my way to taking the course he suggested. 

My final action, as the dreaded Day of Judgment approached, 
was probably tetter inspired than I realized at the time; I wrote, 
and delivered with my own hand at his door, a letter to the Direc- 
tor, saying I had no money to pay a large fine, should certainly not 
borrow, but go to prison; all I asked of him was not to let the matter 
get to the ears of my parents, etc., etc. No doubt the letter was 
melodramatic and ridiculous, but the old wretch must have felt it 
was sincere and been rather alarmed at the turn things were taking, 
for as I afterwards found out, Miss B. was more or less under his 
protection. Whether he intervened or not I never knew of course, 


1877-78] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
but when I arrived at the court not, as I anticipated, a huge 
place thronged with an expectant public, but merely a dingy room 
up a back street, in which were neither the plaintiff nor her counsel 
but just a few stray lawyers I was told that if I wrote a becoming 
apology, expressing my belief in the spotless character of the young 
lady, and paid the costs, all would be forgiven and forgotten. Who 
shall blame me if under the circumstances, though with inward 
groanings that cannot be uttered, I put my name to the required 
lie? In the end the three pounds saw me about half-way through 
the whole business, but it was quite the worst nightmare of my 
life. I may add that the friendship with Miss Heimlicher died a 
natural death, and that soon after, though I think no one knew 
what had happened, Miss B. disappeared from the scene. 

Long afterwards, in fact early in the present century, I learned 
that my kindly young Englishman had taken Holy Orders of 
course! and eventually become Headmaster of a very flourishing 
preparatory school. Finding to my surprise that one of my nephews 
was being educated there, I asked in a fit of sentimental curiosity 
what kind of person the Head was. "Oh, just the usual sort of 
beast," replied my nephew, and with mingled feelings of awe and 
disgust he then learned that the beast might have been his uncle. 

CHAPTER XVII. Winter 1877-78 

JLJ Y this time I had separated the wheat of instruction from the 
chaff and evolved a reasonable Plan of Hours. My only friends were 
still the Rontgens, a state of things that suited me exactly, for I 
knew well the condition of perfect liberty is being absolutely un- 
known. Nevertheless one day shortly before Christmas I at last put 
on a pair of tidy gloves and, getting myself up to look as English and 
conventional as possible, went to call upon Frau Dr. Brockhaus, 
the only person I had a letter of introduction to. Doubts had been 


Impressions that Remained [1877-78 

cast on the value of this introduction by my parents, inasmuch as 
it had been given me by Mary Schwabe's mother-in-law, the cele- 
brated philanthropist Madame Schwabe, who held queens and em- 
presses in the hollow of her hand, who swept everyone she met into 
the whirlpool of her activities, and who had hypnotized me into 
giving a concert at Camberley, shortly before my departure for Ger- 
many, in aid of some institution of hers at Naples. And as I have 
said the family of Schwabe was not in favour at Frimhurst just then. 
It turned out, however, that Frau Dr. Brockhaus was one of the 
great ladies of Leipzig, and I was most cordially welcomed there, 
this delightful house eventually becoming my home during my first 
winter abroad. Oddly enough, on the occasion of a second visit I 
met a Neapolitan scoffer, who declared that the main object of 
Madame Schwabe's institution at Naples was to persuade the boys 
who dive for pennies in the Bay of Naples to wear swimming 
drawers; but this, Frau Doctor explained, was not to be taken seri- 

Herr Dr. Brockhaus, head of the firm, was a melancholy, stiffly 
Saxon, orthodox personality, whose one adventure must have been 
the selection of a fiery Hungarian Jewess years younger than himself 
for his life's partner. Torn between worldly and artistico-intellec- 
tual instincts, Frau Doctor had, I think, never quite decided what 
her true bent was, but at that time, two of her sons being of mar- 
riageable age, the line was Society mitigated with a sprinkling of 
the Serious. Her first kind action as far as I was concerned was in- 
viting me to assist at a German Christmas under her roof. I con- 
fess that to this day I have not made up my mind as to the merits 
of that great institution. People began to look pale and careworn 
about it early in December, and spent half January recovering from 
exhaustion. Where there are crowds of very young children it may 
be worth all this fuss, but on the whole I prefer other manifesta- 
tions of German thoroughness. 

Immediately after the festival, Frau Doctor went off to their 
country place near Dresden ostensibly on business but probably 
to recoup and declared it was her intention to institute herself 
my mentor on her return, and introduce me into the World. The 
next great festival, seeing the Old Year out, was celebrated by me 
at the Rontgens'. We had a grand feast, with sweet champagne in 


1877-78] Germany and T-izo Winters in Italy 
very long, narrow glasses that held nothing, pate de foie gras, 
and hot punch a red essence of some unknown alcoholic deriva- 
tion, mixed to one's taste with boiling water. I noticed as on many 
subsequent occasions that Frau Rontgen, whose digestion was mag- 
nificent, picked all the truffles out of her helping of foie gras and 
put them on her husband's plate a proceeding that dear man 
took quite as a matter of course. After supper we all sang part- 
songs in which I was tenor, when not bass, and it was remarked by 
Papa Rontgen that the more punch was drunk the more I pushed 
up the pitch an interesting effect of alcohol which makes one 
think that to hand it round before certain a cappella pieces at con- 
certs would be a good plan. On that day Julius and Amanda became 
officially engaged, and I had my first wondering view of untram- 
melled German demonstrativeness. 

During these months, as most of my associates knew not one 
word of English, I had been making good progress with German. 
I have always found that understanding a foreign language as 
spoken is far more difficult than learning to speak it myself a 
common experience, I daresay, of talkative and forthcoming peo- 
ple; and by way of practice, as well as from love of the theatre, had 
at once started a custom of going continually to the play, espe- 
cially on Saturdays and Sundays, when there were performances in 
the Old Theatre, at reduced prices, of the classics, and also of cer- 
tain well-known box-office tramps, such as La Dame aux camelias, 
and Adrienne Lecouvreur. I used to buy the text in a twopenny edi- 
tion, get it up thoroughly beforehand, and install myself in the first 
row of stalls, where I drank in every word. Shakespere was always 
in the repertory, including plays seldom performed, such as Corio- 
lanus, Cymbeline, etc.; and once I saw the three parts of Henry VI 
squeezed into two, and Richard III played on successive nights. 
Gradually I came to know all the possible and some of the impos- 
sible plays of Goethe, Lessing, Schiller, Racine, and even one or 
two of Calderon, and these Sunday performances were always 

I must have been very innocent, or perhaps only very stupid, at 
that period, for I wondered what on earth tie heavy father in La 
Dame aux camelias meant when he said his son's liaison with Mar- 
guerite could not possibly result in the "founding of a family/' or 

Impressions that Remained [1877-78 

words to that effect. Having only a vague idea of what exactly the 
relation was, I puzzled my head over that conundrum for two or 
three years at least what the French call looking for midday at 
fourteen o'clock. ... On the whole I fear it was a case of stu- 
pidity rather than innocence, for the great question of sex was a 
constant preoccupation. But I would rather have died than discuss 
it with any living soul. 

There are one or two incidents in one's past to think of which 
fills one with self-loathing. In another place I spoke of such an 
incident connected with a governess's false chignon; but then I was 
a child of ten and had been deceived, whereas when the story I am 
about to relate happened, I was a grown-up maiden whom no one 
had deceived; it was merely that ignorance had led me where ig- 
norance does lead the young. When the small crash came^ the 
proper course would have' been the one I recommended to Miss 
Heimlicher in the libel business to do nothing and just let the 
matter drop; but this policy comes hard to some people at all ages, 
and though in the Protestant upbringing of youth truthfulness is 
so strongly inculcated, we are never taught that "toute verite n'est 
pas bonne & direr This is the only excuse I can offer for this re- 
grettable occurrence, which is as follows. 

In all these plays the actress who took the tragic sympathetic 
parts was one Marie Geistinger, whose career appealed to me to 
start with. She had been a very celebrated operette singer, and if 
not actual creator of the role, was a specially brilliant "Belle 
Helne"; also, though of course I did not know this, her success 
in a sister career had been phenomenal, archdukes, grand dukes, 
and great nobles of all nationalities competing for her favours. She 
must have been a plucky and energetic woman, for when her voice 
began to go, and with it her celebrated slimness, she vanished for 
two or three years, to reappear on the stage as tragic actress. She 
was at that time over fifty, had a very fine stage presence, and was 
a tremendous favourite with the public. I have no idea how the 
really knowledgeable classed her, but to me, young, inexperienced, 
and stage-struck, she was the ideal embodiment of all the heroines 
I loved and pitied, who were more real to me than most living 
people, such as Maria Stuart, Adrienne, Phedre, Hermione (in 

1877-78] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
'Winter's Tale), and others. In short I was quite mad about the 
Geistinger, and after the performances used to stand for long half- 
hours in snow or slush to see her muffled form shoot out of the 
stage door into her fly. At last I took to buying little bunches of 
violets or roses and bribing the stage-doorlceeper to put them in her 
dressing-room, with rny name and a few words of impassioned ad- 
miration on a card. 

This went on for quite a long time, and at last one happy day I 
was given a note from "the gracious lady" saying she was much 
touched by my attentions, and would like to thank me in person, 
naming a day and hour at which I should find her at such and such 
an address. The last was an unnecessary detail, for countless times, 
with skates in my hand - she lived on the way to the Johannisthal 

had I walked up her stairs and past her door to leave fictitious 
notes on imaginary persons on the floor above, but alas! without 
ever having had the luck to meet her. When the great day came, 
as I rang her bell it seemed my trembling knees must surely betray 
my agitation to the servant. 

I don't think I have said that except in the very smartest set, 
the family always occupied a room called "the living-room" in con- 
tradistinction to the real drawing-room, kept for grand occasions 
and familiarly known as die gate Stube (the good room)* This 
was always a cold and forbidding apartment, the stove being sel- 
dom lit, with highly polished floor and chairs arranged geometri- 
cally round the walls. Opposite the door, on a smart bit of carpet, 
would be a table with plush cover, g square of crochet work and 
a flower-pot in the centre, behind which, jammed up against the 
wall, was the state sofa; and the hostess's first words invariably 
were: "Bitte setzen Sie sich aufs Sofa!" ("Please to seat yourself 
upon the sofa"). I was ushered into the gute Stube, and with- 
out any delay the object of my adoration appeared, followed by a 
shy young man whom she introduced as her husband; and down we 
two women sat on the sofa. 

Then began the most banal of all banal conversations I have 
ever taken part in. The Geistinger had needlework of some kind 

a paralysing fact to start with and no doubt was at her wits' 
end, poor thing, what to say to this adoring English girl, whose 
German at that time was far from fluent. As for me, the shock of 

Impressions that Remained [1877-78 

seeing Maria Stuart at close quarters, in a tight-fitting dark blue 
satin bodice covered with spangles, rouged up to the eyes, and 
wearing a fluffy light wig, produced a commotion in my breast as 
when the tide turns against a strong wind. The husband hovered 
uneasily in the background, till told somewhat sharply to sit down, 
which he did, still very far off; but through it all I clung to the 
memory of the passionate emotions of the theatre, and when asked 
to admire a little white dog of some odious, fluffy, yapping breed, 
it was painful to have to say I only liked big dogs. 

This however was a- blessing in disguise, for a quite animated 
discussion about the disadvantages of big dogs in towns ensued, 
whereas up to that moment we really and truly had talked about 
the weather like embarrassed people in books. When it was time to 
go I was graciously invited to come again, and any slight feeling of 
disappointment was put down to knowing that in my overpowering 
shyness I had cut rather a poor figure. True, on reflection, this 
greatest of great ladies on the stage seemed, in real life, strangely 
unlike any lady I had ever met, but to dwell on this thought was 
distasteful; indeed the great difficulty to people of a certain tem- 
perament is to admit the evidence of their senses, once the imagi- 
nation has been thoroughly stirred. One won't see, won't hear, 
won't believe. . . . 

After a decent interval I went to see her again, and yet again. 
As I now perceive, she belonged to the large class of actresses who 
literally have not an idea in their heads beyond the theatre, and 
oh! how distinctly I remember noticing, in spite of my infatuation, 
that even in the plays she took part in, nothing interested her ex- 
cept her own r&le a trait common to most prime donne I was 
to meet with later on. But I got over this somehow, and though a 
determination to believe in her hair and complexion had to be 
abandoned, I got over that too, and our friendship, begun in the 
autumn, went on well into the New Year, though rather haltingly. 
Strange to say, Frau Doctor, who in some ways was very innocent, 
and whose conventionality was pleasantly inconsistent, did not 
remonstrate. But remonstrance was to come! 

Among the grandees she introduced me to after Christmas were 
the Tauchnitz family, inventors of the Tauchnitz Edition, he 
a German of course being English Consul. Here also I was more 

1877-78] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

than kindly received, and when it turned out that his friend Lor-r-rd 
Napier of Magdala was a connection and beloved old friend of my 
parents there was great enthusiasm, and Frau Doctor must have 
sighed a sigh of relief. I at once succumbed to the charms of his 
very pretty and intensely kind daughter-in-law, who like all Tauch- 
nitzes had a fair knowledge of English manners and customs. She 
had heard, and been greatly amused about, my passion for the 
Geistinger, but was wholly unprepared for the news that we were 
on visiting terms. I remember her horrified face as she said: "Aber 
Kind, ganz gewiss wiirde so eine Freundschaft Ihrer lieben Frau 
Mama sehr unlieb sein!" ("But, child, I am sure your dear Frau 
Mama would greatly disapprove of such a friendship/') And then,, 
with infinite discretion, she proceeded to lift the veil, grand dukes 
and all. It appeared that the young man really was a husband of 
sorts, only in that world you married, divorced, and married again 
as often as you pleased. In this particular case two or three hus- 
bands had been tried and found wanting, the poor lady's instinct 
being evidently to settle down, but not, not with an elderly ad- 
mirer. In the end I quite allowed the acquaintance must be 
dropped, but unfortunately the only course which commended it- 
self to me was to write and say so; which I did, adding that if she 
reflected on her past life she would understand why! I am thankful 
to say I got no reply to this odious letter; indeed, I had begged 
there might be none a cowardly touch added to the rest. 

It is to be feared that in those days I admitted no line of con- 
duct, no principles, except those in which I had been brought up^ 
and unrepentant sinners filled me with pharisaical indignation. 
Thinking over this incident I have often wished one could be cer- 
tain the Geistinger felt not the slightest pang about it, only amuse- 
ment. It is more than likely . . . but I regret that letter even 
more than the chignon business. 

Impressions that Remained [1878 

CHAPTER XVIII. Early in 1878 

in January came the event to which, ever since its advance 
announcement by Henschel in Friedrichsroda, everything else had 
seemed but a prelude, the arrival of Brahms in Leipzig to conduct 
his new Symphony in D Major. Henschel turned up from Berlin at 
the same time, and from him I gathered that at the extra rehearsal, 
to which we outsiders were not admitted, there had been a good 
deal of friction. Brahms, as I found out later, for Henschel would 
have been far too loyal to admit it, not only was an indifferent con- 
ductor, but had the knack of rubbing orchestras up the wrong way. 
Moreover with one or two exceptions notably Rontgen, once an 
opponent but now an enthusiastic admirer the Gewandhaus mu- 
sicians were inclined to be antagonistic to his music, and indeed 
considered the performance of any new work whatsoever an act of 
condescension. As for Brahms, accustomed to the brilliant quality 
of Viennese orchestras, which was to entrance me equally when I 
came to know them, he found his own race, the North Germans, 
cold and sticky, and let them feel it. 

Henschel also informed me the great man was staying, as usual, 
with Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Director of the Bach Verein, 
whose beautiful wife, about whom the Rontgens were for ever rav- 
ing, was said to be the most gifted musician and fascinating being 
ever met or heard of; Brahms had more than once remarked that, 
but for her, he would never set foot in Leipzig at all. To my min- 
gled delight and horror I learned, too, that Henschel had actually 
spoken to him about my work, telling him I had never studied, that 
he really ought to look at it and so on; and after the general re- 
hearsal this good friend clutched and presented me all unawares. At 
that time Brahms was clean-shaven, and in the whirl of emotion I 
only remember a strong alarming face, very penetrating bright blue 
eyes, and my own desire to sink through the floor when he said, as 
I then thought by way of a compliment, but as I now know in a 
spirit of scathing irony: "So this is the pung lady who writes so- 
natas and doesn't know counterpoint!" I afterwards learned that 
Henschel had left a MS. of mine (two songs) with him, that he 

1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

subsequently looked at them, and remarked to Frau Rontgen that 
evidently Henschel had written them himself! 

I saw him again during that week ? but as all my reliable impres- 
sions of him belong to a later period, when I came to know him 
well, it is safer to speak here of the symphony, which, though it 
deeply impressed me, left me a little bewildered. I had yet to learn 
that only a conductor of genius for preference not the composer, 
except in very rare cases can produce a new orchestral work intelli- 
gibly; at that time too the idiom of Brahms was unfamiliar, and 
doubtless the rendering lacked conviction. One thing I well re- 
member, that on this occasion I first realized exactly how much 
critics grasp of a new work not yet available in print. The great 
Leipzig Extinguisher, after making the usual complaints as to lack 
of melody, excess of learning, and general unsatisfactoriness, re- 
marked: "About half-way through the very tedious first movement 
there is one transient gleam of light, a fairly tuneful passage for 
horns. 7 ' He had not noticed this was the recurring first theme, which 
had already appeared for those selfsame horns in the second 
bar! . . . 

The Rontgens, Klengels, etc., who were full of enthusiasm for the 
symphony, had been asked to meet Brahms at the Herzogenbergs*, 
and I heard more and more about the wonderful "Frau Lisl," whom 
I wondered if I should ever meet, for they said she detested society 
and saw no one but a handful of intimates. 

Meanwhile I had discovered that living en pension was un- 
necessary extravagance, and determined to go into rooms a plan 
Frau Professor took in excellent part. This time luck was emphati- 
cally on my side. Next door to Frau Doctor Brockhaus, who lived 
in the Salomonstrasse one of the new residential streets on the 
other side of the town, all big houses with wooded gardens I had 
often noticed a picturesque, French-looking old house, two-storied, 
with tiled roof and dormer windows, standing well back in its ram- 
shackle grounds. One day, lo and behold! I saw hanging on the paling 
a little board with the device "moblirte Zimmer" (furnished rooms ) , 
and the end of it was that I took up my abode there on February 
i, 1878. 

Impressions that Remained [1878 

My new landlady, Frau Brandt, was a nice but very untidy woman 
with a howling mob of children. There was only one room at my 
disposal, and that with the wrong aspect too a point I had learned 
to take interest in; but as I had fallen head over heels in love with 
the house and knew it was to pass into other hands in the summer, 
I decided to put up with everything, provided satisfactory arrange- 
ments could be made for the future. 

I don't think I have yet said, what perhaps goes without saying, 
that it was always understood that I should pass the long vacation 
in other words the summer at home; also that Papa and cer- 
tain relations had been confident that the desire to live abroad, 
being merely a whim, would not survive my first winter. By this 
time, however, they were disillusioned on that point and not sur- 
prised to hear I was deep in domiciliary plans for the autumn. 
The incoming people were interviewed, and finding we suited each 
other perfectly, I secured the promise of two rooms I had set my 
heart on and settled down contentedly for the time being in 

As I only spent two months in the single room with the wrong 
aspect, I will describe my lodgings and my manner of life generally 
as they were in the following autumn, and during the rest of the 
time I lived in that fascinating eighteenth-century house. 

An ingenious system was arranged between my landlady and my- 
self, under which I ate my midday meal either with the family or at 
a restaurant, according to the way my day was planned; but I in- 
variably had supper in my own room. I would buy a quarter of a 
pound of cold ham and some butter (a store of beer was always in 
the corner of my sitting-room) , and there, when I came home after 
a concert or the theatre, I found the table ready laid with a hunk 
of black bread on it. The outside wall sloped about half-way up, and 
my larder was a new birdcage, resting, among wild vine leaves, on 
the rain-gutter below the dormer windows, and leaning crazily 
against the roof. There were adventures with cats, but the birdcage 
defeated them. On the other side of the house, separating the front 
garden from the road, was a seven-foot wooden paling, made of up- , 
rights and cross bars, the gate in which was locked by law at eleven 
p.m. ? but it was of the sort an agile person who had forgotten the 
huge rusty latchkey could climb, in spite of the spikes. Sometimes 


1878] Germany and Tiuo Winters in Italy 

there would be belated passers-by or a policeman; if so ? one walked on 
up a side street and returned when the coast was clear. When I came 
to know the smart people, nothing astonished them more than that 
this feat was performed on an average two or three times a month. 

It was of course quite unusual for .girls of my class either to go 
to restaurants or to walk about the streets alone at night, and at 
first friends used to implore me to let a servant see me home; but 
neither that nor any other curtailment of my liberty would I per- 
mit. Only once was I spoken to by a strange man in Germany, and 
remember insisting on the fact to Charlie Hunter, who remarked 
that was surely nothing to boast about. 

Reflecting on it all, I am astonished to think how calmly, on the 
whole, my Mentor, now my neighbour, took my proceedings. In 
the depths of her southern soul was a secret strain of Bohemianism 
which the rigours of bourgeois life in a particularly conventional 
North German town had not wholly eradicated; probably she felt, 
too, that though I really did my best to please her on side issues, 
there was nothing to be done with the ground plan. I know that 
often when I asked her advice she would say in a tragicomic voice: 
"Was niltzt's class ich dir einen Rath gebe? folgen wirst du dock 
dichl" ("What's the use of giving you advice? I know you won't 
follow it! 7 ') Moreover she was clever enough to see that though the 
"nice people/' by way of explaining their indulgence to her 
protegee, were for ever reminding each other feverishly that I was 
English (a card I played, alas, poor England! for all it was worth), 
as a matter of fact I met with more than tolerance, and but for the 
circumstance that nothing really counted for me but my work, 
should have been in a fair way to become terribly spoiled. My little 
song Rothraut, sung with a strong English accent, had a great 
success everywhere, and the Brockhaus boys presented me with a 
black velvet student's cap lined with red silk, round which was em- 
broidered in gold and scarlet the music and words of the first line. 
I still have this treasure, which moths have respected, and of course 
adored the music-ridden German nation more than ever. 

Invitations to balls a great temptation poured in, and as I 
had left all my finery in England there were anxious confabulations 
with Frau Doctor (who wished me to do her credit), followed by 
endless letters to Mother, full of ingenious and economical sugges- 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

tlons on the toilette question. The worst of all this gaiety was that the 
candle was now being burned at both ends, but kind Frau Doctor 
was, I fancy, too interested in my social career to grasp that fact; 
anyhow I cannot recall her advising me to put the brake on. 

CHAPTER XIX. Early in 1878 

JOy this time I was beginning to get some idea of social conditions 
in Leipzig and noticed there was a fairly sharp division between three 
main classes the burgher aristocracy (or worldly), the professorial 
set, and the artists. 

To begin with the first; its kernel was the "Gewandhaus Gesell- 
schaft" a group of about forty leading families, not necessarily 
wealthy, who had intermarried for generations and owned most of 
the woodland villages round Leipzig. It was governed by intricate 
laws like the ancient guilds, and nobles were excluded from mem- 
bership. Among these burgher patricians patriarchal customs pre- 
vailed; in the town married sons and their families generally occu- 
pied upper floors of the paternal dwelling, which as often as not 
was in the same building as their business. In the summer the whole 
party migrated to the country house (always within easy reach of 
*the town), and while der Bappa and die Mamma inhabited 
the "Schloss" generally a pleasant, homely erection no more like 
a castle than is many a French "chateau" the young people were 
dotted about the grounds in not very tasteful villas. This world had 
the defects and virtues of all provincial society, and although, as 
I have indicated, they made kindly allowances for strangers, among 
themselves their manners were stiff and their ideas rather nar- 
row, always excepting a certain leading family I shall introduce by 
and by. 

The rural aristocracy (Land Adel) played no great part in Leipzig 
society, but later on I saw some of them in their own preserves and 
found them more like ourselves than the burgher patricians. In fact 


1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

one realized, as that fierce rale of the Gewandhaus Gesellschaft I 
quoted indicates, that the two classes had kept strictly aloof till 
quite recent times, with no such medium as our English gentry 
blessed result of the open-aristocracy system to bridge the gulf. 
The Gewandhaus set was frequented by the military Generals 
of 1870, for instance, in slightly patronizing mood and smothered 
with orders, whose wives gave themselves amazing airs; also by stray 
members of the Land Adel dotted about the country round Leipzig, 
who occasionally deigned to mix with the rich bourgeois and drink 
their champagne. You even met sprigs of Royalty in course of being 
laboriously coached for their degrees by obsequious professors . . . 
between whiles seeing life under the guidance of our young swells. 
Despite the pride of class that I so much admired in the old Leipzig 
families, much fuss was made over these visitors from a higher sphere. 
As for the professors and their belongings a group stiff with 
intellectual pretension, whose exaggerated display of mutual respect 
masked mutual hatred and jealousy I have never seen equalled 
these I detested at first sight and after one or two essays kept out 
of their way for ever more. My initiation into this world a Pro 
fessoren-Bdl to which Frau Doctor got me an invitation is one 
of the fantastic experiences of my life. Imagine the guests of a 
Lambeth Palace garden party of thirty years ago suddenly ordered 
at a moment's notice to appear for the first time in their lives in a 
ballroom. . . . There were stuff gowns turned in at the neck in a V 
with a bit of kce sewn in; there were black trousers worn beneath 
gray waistcoats; there were gaudy students' jackets besmeared with 
stains from the restaurant; and, worst of all, tubs were evidently un- 
known in the intellectual world. Maidens writhed with archness 
and never ceased giggling, young men bowed, scraped, and de- 
claimed, flourishing their arms about, and at one moment I found 
myself dancing the lancers opposite a youth whose hair was half- 
way down his back, who wore someone else's swallow-tailed coat, 
and who was cutting elaborate capers such as a gorgeous Highlander 
might have envied, in a pair of double-soled boots covered with 
mud! . . . The elegance of the really great world is incontestable 
everywhere; once, when I had a fugitive glimpse of a peasants* ball 
in the Bavarian Highlands, with its beautiful national costumes, 
long pipes, and unaffected jollity, I asked myself, as I do now, why, 

Impressions that Remained [1878 

between Paul Veronese and Jan Steen, must there be this vast tract 
of senseless, hybrid commonness? . . . 

And yet the professor tribe frisking in ballrooms is more sympa- 
thetic than pontificating at dinner tables and in drawing-rooms. 
Needless to say there were remarkable men among them, people of 
European reputation whom it was interesting to watch, but not one 
single remarkable woman. There is a phrase for ever on German 
f emale lips that used to irritate me: "MeinMann sagt . . ." ("My 
husband says . . ."), but as uttered by the ignorant, arrogant wives 
of these infallable ones it is the least attractive side of German life 
in a nutshell. In fact the general atmosphere of the Professoren- 
Kreise* (I am speaking figuratively not alluding to their ball- 
rooms) was unbreathable. 

The artists who, as goes without saying, were my chief associates, 
were sometimes to be found wandering about forlorn in the circles 
of Professordom, but they professed and sincerely felt unmitigated 
contempt for the worldlings, and were seldom if ever met in their 
haunts. As stranger and Engldnderinn and in those days Germans 
had a sneaking respect for English freedom of spirit, and above all 
for English table-manners I was admitted to all these various 
groups, and confess it was delightful to meet again among the rich 
burghers certain habits of life one was accustomed to, but might 
vainly hope to find elsewhere in Leipzig things like tubs, horses, 
and tennis, for instance. Even to have the door opened by a smart 
footman was not without its appeal; and when some of my artist 
friends wondered how anyone could care to frequent such frivolous 
society I would stolidly reply: "In my father's house are many man- 
sions" a phrase which, in the German equivalent, "in meines 
Voters Haus sind viele Wohnungen" lends itself with very comic 
effect to a strong English accent and for that reason had a great 
success. It is almost impossible for a young artist to avoid being nar- 
rowed in matters artistic by his own set, but socially I have always 
held firmly to a profound, hereditary conviction that it takes all 
sorts to make a world. 

Later on I found that the snobbism of rank and wealth is of course 
the same in Dresden and Berlin as in London or other capitals, but 
the one type you never met at Leipzig was the International Smart. 

1 Professorial Circles; thus they describe themselves. 


1878] Germany and T-ixo Winters in Italy 

I could name twenty such, labelled English, French, German, or 
Italian, as the case may be, who wear the same clothes, think the 
same thoughts, and are practically identical; such of course never 
dreamed of coming to Leipzig, hence you could there study Ger- 
man burgher life in a state of comparative purity. 

In all the different groups mentioned the particularist feeling was 
sure to crop up sooner or later. Stray Prussians were perpetually 
having digs at the Saxons, whom they considered servile, false, and 
rather stupid. The Saxons, for their part, cordially hated the Prus- 
sians, but also feared them; for which reason, being a race not dis- 
tinguished for moral courage, their sentiments were only revealed in 
an outburst or in confidence. Some of the Saxon turns of speech 
certainly tend to give their own case away; for instance an adjective 
I have never heard elsewhere is hinterrucksch, used to qualify peo- 
ple who take malevolent action behind your back; and a real good 
old Leipzig joke is to say, if someone disappears without apparent 
reason from the circle: "He must have taken offence at something!" 
But their most characteristic phrase is one that prefaces any remark 
whatsoever which, if repeated, might have unpleasant consequences: 
u ich mil nichts gesagt habenl" whereby you are warned that if 
necessary the remark will be disavowed. Farther than this caution 
cannot go! Still, as soon as I became capable of distinguishing, I 
infinitely preferred the kindly, humane, homely Saxons to the over- 
bearing Prussians, particularly after a winter spent in Berlin. 

From the very first dialect interested me a matter which can 
be only studied to a very limited extent among the educated in our 
islands; thus I soon mastered the varieties and found out what a 
soul-revealing medium it is. To speak of only a few blatant instances, 
the Prussian dialect is harsh, clean-cut, and uncompromising; the 
Bavarian, though easy-going and good-natured on the surface, sug- 
gests fathomless depths of brutality below; whereas through the Aus- 
trian turn of speech careless, fascinating, and slightly nasal there 
gleams at its worst a cold, smiling, rather Oriental cruelty as unlike 
brutality as the East is unlike the West. But in the peculiar lan- 
guage spoken in Leipzig, including diction, intonation, and every 
imaginable harmonic, there is a deliberate wallowing in the in- 
aesthetic, a cult of the ungraceful, of which Leipzigers themselves are 
quite conscious though few emancipate themselves wholly from its 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

thraldom. And no one reviles the Saxon dialect more mercilessly 
than travelled Saxons. 

Meanwhile, in whatever set I might happen to find myself, three 
names were constantly on all lips, uttered with respect, admiration, 
or devotion, as the case might be. Hitherto for various reasons I had 
met none of these evidently remarkable personalities; then suddenly 
Fate made good, and in the course of a single week Livia Frege, Lili 
Wach, and Elisabeth von Herzogenberg swam into my orbit. 

When you whisper certain names to yourself a cathedral lights 
up in the dark recesses of memory, and all who knew her would 
agree "that the name Livia Frege is one of these. In her youth she 
had been a very celebrated concert singer, and some of Mendels- 
sohn's and Schumann's finest songs are dedicated to "Livia Ger- 
hardt"; now, on the threshold of old age, she was a great lady, but 
also the simplest-hearted, warmest friend of every true artist in the 
place. One of those women born to the purple, with the prestige 
of a glorious artistic past thrown in, there was a sheer lovableness 
about her that I partly ascribe to the bluest, most eternally youth- 
ful eyes ever seen. She had married when very young a Leipzig 
banker and left the concert-room for ever; some say nothing short 
of this renunciation would satisfy the burgher-patrician parents-in- 
law, but to separate Livia Frege from music was beyond anyone's 

I first met her in the sort of state box over the orchestra in the 
old Gewandhaus, which, though other mortals in part owned it, 
was always called the "Frege Loge." She had heard of me from the 
Rontgens, and when someone told this queen that in the little 
basket I hung on a peg in that sacred box was a parcel of cold ham, 
she replied according to legend: "And pray why not?" in a manner 
that rolled the would-be mischief-maker out flat. Livia had once 
been a very poor young artist herself, but perhaps her interlocutor 
had forgotten the fact. Though stately to a degree, and prejudiced 
in an old-fashioned pleasant way, she took me at once into her good 
graces, told me to call her "Du" and "Frau Livia," and I am cer- 
tain had pleasure in the adoration it was impossible even for the 
old and cold, let alone the young and hot, to help lavishing on her. 

She was very religious, not in the alternately blatant and gushing 


Lilt Wach (nee Mendelssohn-Barth&ldy), 

1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

style affected by many pious Germans and hall-marked by the 
Hohenzollerns, but with absolute simplicity. On the subject of evil 
communications corrupting good manners she was particularly 
strong, and once told me she had never listened to a Wagner opera 
because she wished to keep herself "musically pure/' Said as she 
said it 7 and given her past, this was not in the least unsympathetic; 
it fitted in somehow with her gentle, serious idealism, which again 
was saved from sentimentality by a gift of pealing laughter that 
made heavy-minded admirers stare. So beautiful, so dignified, al- 
most an old woman, and yet able to nearly die of laughing like the, 
very young! I used to note the beauty in her face and voice when 
she spoke of Mendelssohn, who, with his wife, had been of her 
most intimate friends. A world that since then had begotten 
Brahms, not to speak of Wagner, was growing contemptuous of its 
former idol, and she was aware of the fact, but did not consider it 
necessary even to discuss the matter. No insistence on his merit, no 
apology just the old love and faith. I thought this attitude won- 
derful, but to carry it through you had to be Livia of the light- 
holding sapphire eyes. 

Years after her death H. B. once said casually: "Ah yes Fran 
Frege she was Mendelssohn's mistress, wasn't she?" Recovered 
from the shock of realizing that even in a world as mad as ours such 
a legend could have a second's life, we began inventing analogous 
questions, such as "Didn't St. Theresa elope with Ignatius Loyola?" 
or "Wasn't George Sand Musset's grandmother?" etc., etc., but to 
those who knew my old Leipzig friend nothing as fantastic as the 
original proposition can be coined. 

Frau Livia had a weakness for princes, which fact was com- 
mented on sarcastically by some of the worldlings and may have 
secretly troubled simple-minded humbler friends. But as these 
never found themselves neglected because of the Royalties, where 
was the harm? To the market of life this highly inbred race brings 
a quite special contribution, to take no interest in which is surely 
not a sign of superiority? Indeed, one can say of Royalty what has 
been said of God, that if it did not exist it would have to be in- 
vented. The proof is that again and again it has been swept away 
. . . to be reinstated by succeeding generations; and so I hope and 
believe it will be to the end of time. 


Impressions that Remained 

Many a young musician used to be given a preliminary canter at 
Frau Livia's house before a select audience, and it was on the first 
of these occasions attended by me that I met the two other bright 
jewels in Leipzig's crown. 

Lili Wach was the only absolutely normal and satisfactory speci- 
men I have ever met of a much-to-be-pitied genus, the children of 
celebrated personalities; she was Mendelssohn's youngest daughter,, 
and judging by their portraits must have been more like her Chris- 
tian mother than her Jewish father. Yet both the delicately cut 
profile and soul to match had a touch of Israel at its best, and she 
used to say: "Make allowance for Jewish caution!" when a certain 
shrinking from positive statements held back the emphatic "Yes" 
or "No" demanded. She was veiy musical, but being her father's 
daughter and extremely reserved by nature she kept the fact so dark 
that few people knew it. 

Her husband, a distinguished Prussian lawyer, was notoriously 
musical. One of the most interesting men I have ever met, he was 
also, as I realized later, a typical modern German in many respects. 
Yet not in all, for though Professor of Jurisprudence at the Leipzig 
University and terrifically learned, there was not the faintest touch 
of pedantry about him a fact which privately scandalized some 
of his Saxon colleagues. Man of action and politician, he was sus- 
pected of aiming at high honours in the Prussian bureaucracy, and 
it was the fashion to question the sincerity of his religious convic- 
tions, which were of the Hohenzollern brand; but being fond of 
him, I put this down to jealousy. One day, however, at a funeral 
from a f riend's house, where the usual speechifying round the coffin 
was led by the pastor in the orthodox inflated style a style even 
cultivated people accept as the proper thing what was my aston- 
ishment at hearing Wach hold forth in exactly the same key! . . . 
Wach, of all critics of other men's oratory the most pitiless! Since 
then, having re-read the Book of Joshua, and grasped that the r61e 
of God in the Prussian world-scheme is identical with that of Je- 
hovah in the Wars of Israel, it seems likely that Wach, an ambi- 
tious man, deliberately poured sincere convictions into this particu- 
lar mould. That is why he was a typical figure. Otherwise the most 
spontaneous of beings, warm-hearted, tempestuous, and brimming 
with sense of humour, his wife would plead with gentle irony that 


1878] Germany and Tixo Winters in Italy 

there was enough violence, vitality, and definite assertion in the 
house without her emerging from her shell. 

My friendship with Lili Wach was destined to become only sec- 
ond to the still closer relation I am about to speak of. As for Wach, 
who had a great reputation as mountaineer, his wife always main- 
tained it was natural that we should have taken to each other at 
first sight, being chips of the same block. His theories on large 
families, which I have confessed to sharing, were ultimately her 
death, she being far too frail for child-bearing on the scale he in- 
sisted on. But I loved these too numerous children, in whose eyes, 
because of clambering over the paling (and later on because of a 
big dog of mine), I became a sort of legendary figure, and with 
whom I kept up a warm friendship that only the war interrupted. 

CHAPTER XX. Early in 1878 

) now, if these memoirs were a masque, I should bid the musi- 
cians and electricians conspire with me to usher on becomingly the 
last and best beloved of my trio of L's Lisl, otherwise Elisabeth 
von Herzogenberg. 

The published correspondence between her and Brahms has 
given the world some idea of the personality of this remarkable 
woman, in whose house I became what he always called me, "the 
child/' till Fate violently and irrevocably parted us. At the time I 
first met her she was twenty-nine, not really beautiful but better 
than beautiful, at once dazzling and bewitching; the fairest of 
skins, fine-spun, wavy golden hair, curious arresting greenish-brown 
eyes, and a very noble rather low forehead, behind which you knew 
there must be an exceptional brain. I never saw a more beautiful 
neck and shoulders; so marvellously white were they that on the 
very rare occasions on which the world had a chance of viewing 
them it was apt to stare thereby greatly disconcerting their 
owner, whose modesty was of the type that used to be called maid- 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

enly. In fact the great problem was to prevent her swathing them 
in chiffon. 

About middle height, the figure was not good; she stooped 
slightly, yet the effect was graceful and ingratiating, rather as 
though she were bending forward to look at you through the haze 
of her own golden atmosphere. In spite of this ethereal quality 
there was a touch of homeliness about her to use the word in 
its best sense a combination I have never met with in anyone 
else. Of great natural capacity rather than well informed, a brilliant., 
most original talker, very amusing, and an inimitable mimic, she 
managed in spite of all her gifts to retain the childlike spirit which 
is one of the sympathetic traits in the German character and 
what is more, to blend it with the strong-pinioned fascination of 
one who could but know, like Phyllis in the song, that she never 
failed to please. And this is surely a remarkable achievement! It 
really was true that with her sunshine came in at the door, and 
both sexes succumbed equally to her charm. As her marriage was 
notoriously happy, possibly too because her brilliant talents in- 
spired a certain awe, men did not dare make love to her, not at 
least the sort of men she met at Leipzig. But I fancy that in other 
circumstances a small flirtation would not have been disdained; I 
used to tell her that when talking to men she became a different 
woman a difference which though slight was perceptible but 
this mild accusation didn't fit in with her scheme of things and 
was eagerly repudiated. 

In a burgher world it certainly went for something that this siren 
was an aristocrat. Sincerely as everyone in the artist set despised 
worldliness, I think her exploits in the kitchen (for among other 
things she was a Heaven-inspired cook) gained in picturesqueness 
when you reflected that had the Court of Hanover not come crum- 
bling about their ears in early youth, she and her sister Julia Brew- 
ster would have been Maids of Honour. Logic has made great 
strides in Germany, but at that time there were still a few illogical 
people about. 

The essential point was of course her musical genius. Almost by 
instinct she read and played from score as do few routined con- 
ductors, and in judgment, critical faculty, and all-round knowledge 
was the perfect musician. And yet, though if ever I worshipped a 


1878] Germany and T<v;o Winters in Italy 

being on earth it was Lisl, her singing and playing left me cold. 
This critical attitude on the part of a novice might well have vexed 
one accustomed to unqualified admiration on all sides, from 
Brahms downwards; but being quite unspoiled, she was only puz- 
zled, and used sometimes to ask: "How comes it that thou alone 
dost not love my music-making?" to which I would reply, as I be- 
lieved, that thinking too much about voice-production and finger- 
ing interfered with her spontaneity, never guessing that what was 
lacking was the one thing needful, passion. At the bottom of all 
that tender warmth and enthusiasm Gemuth as the Germans 
call it was a curious hardness of which in all the years of our 
friendship I saw but one passing sign, and which perhaps nothing 
short of one of those catastrophes that shake human nature to its 
foundations would have laid bare. Her music betrayed it, but here 
again she was so richly equipped, and the spell her musicality cast 
was so potent, that, as far as 1 know, others were not conscious of 
fundamental coldness. Years afterwards her brother-in-law H. B. 
told me that he had guessed it, and once in the early days of our 
acquaintanceship in Florence (1883)! remember his saying that to 
drive a spear too deeply into that soil might be to break its point. 
But as I was the only outsider on spear-driving terms of intimacy 
with her, no one had put it to the proof, and at the time that re- 
mark was made it was indignantly brushed aside by me. 

I noticed early in the day, however, in connection with a third 
person, that she had not much psychological instinct, not in deep 
places at least. Complex natures baffled her, and I would sometimes 
charge her with lacking the sort of poetic imagination that saves 
you from cracking your brain over odd twists and turns of charac- 
ter. "Surely if you do this or that, it is naturd that the other person 
should react thus and thus?" she would say in cases where it was 
obvious that the person would react in quite another manner; and 
once she astonished me by writing: "To understand a person's ac- 
tion means, surely, that you yourself would act thus in their 
place?" x which I thought a fantastic interpretation of understand- 

Again I had always assumed that harmony was the crown, the 
final polish, the ultimate subjection of possibly dissonant elements, 
1 Appendix, p. 275, No. 9. 

Impressions that Rej/iamed [1878 

not the avoiding of dissonance for the sake of consonance. "Take 
all that comes along, all at least that matters, and work it into your 
scheme somehow" such was my unformulated creed . . . but it 
was not Lisl's. In the light of what happened afterwards the eter- 
nal small crises all down the years as well as the final breach I 
not onir see in her a temperamental worship of harmony at any 
cost but recognize how almost unconsciously, and with infinite 
skill she avoided conflicts; also that those who associated with her, 
from her husband downwards, took care that no tempest should 
raffle her sunny serenity. This dislike of stress and storm was never 
connected in my mind, nor I think in the minds of those who con- 
formed to it, with the valvular heart disease which was a perpetual 
source of secret terror and distress to me, and of which she was to 
die when relatively a young woman. But nowadays, having noticed 
how an obscure instinct of self-presentation determines the course 
of persons thus afflicted, I think her malady was probably as great 
a factor in our story as any other. 

This by the way. Meanwhile In that spring of 1878, making 
straight for the sheltered waters on which, like an enchanted boat, 
her soul was floating, there appeared on the horizon a Stormy 

Herzogenberg, or, to give him his full title, Heinrich Freiherr 
von Herzogenberg, was a few years older than his wife, and had 
been brought up by the Jesuits for the priesthood, as are many 
younger sons of noble Austrian families; but on reaching adoles- 
cence he rebelled in order to devote himself to music as un- 
heard-of a thing in his walk of life as In mine. The family was 
originally French, his grandfather, Vicomte Picot de Peccaduc, 
having emigrated to Bohemia at the time of the French Revolu- 
tion and taken the name and title of Freiherr von Herzogenberg 
a correct but inadequate rendering of his own fine patronymic. A 
slight Jesuitical strain in the grandson, which he was quite aware 
of but which never affected him In the larger issues of life, worked 
in delightfully with his humanness, culture, and abounding sense 
of humour. Though without her glamour and who would wish 
to find two such shining ones under the same roof? he was quite 
as much beloved by those who knew them well as his wife. Of 


1878] Germany and TISO Winters in Italy 

course he adored her, and in one of her early letters she, the least 
vain of women, told me how delighted she had been when, finding 
himself near her at some smart part}* (and of an evening she was 
positively dazzling), he remarked in the dry, comic way his friends 
knew so well: "Abgesehen von dller Verwandschaft muss ich ge- 
stehen doss du hubsch bisf* ("Apart from relationship I must con- 
fess that thoti art pretty"). 

A more learned musician can never have existed; without trouble 
he turned out fugues, canons, etc., etc., that could be read back- 
wards, upside down, or in a looking-glass a gift that has as little 
to do with music, perhaps, as tying yourself into knots or playing 
twelve games of chess at once, but which is certainly rare and re- 
markable. He used to compose for a given number of hours daily, 
and as may be guessed the result was often dry. I know not with 
what ambition he started his career, but remember his once re- 
marking rather touchingly that he made no claim to having any- 
thing new to say merely hoped to hand on the good tradition. 
As was inevitable with such a wife, he arranged all his works for 
piano duet, which was one of the very few trials connected with 
this ideal couple, for he had a touch like a paving stone. She was 
as devoted to him as he to her, and in sympathetic company a very 
discreet little mutual demonstration would sometimes take place. 
This their adoring world found delightful, and eventually I learned 
to accept it as part of the German civilization. 

The Wachs and Herzogenbergs, who at once became the kernel 
of my Leipzig existence, associated but superficially and in a slight 
spirit of superiority with various other friends of mine to whom I 
was deeply attached worldlings in whose company, as hinted 
above, certain aspects of home life were found again. Chief among 
these was a family whose name heads the list when I am meditating 
unpayable debts for kindnesses received. The master of the house, 
Consul Limburger, was a wealthy wool merchant and the only real 
man of the world in Leipzig, gay, handsome, well turned out, and 
without a touch of German heaviness. Serious persons considered 
him frivolous but were none the less obliged to follow his lead, for 
he was the moving spirit of the whole place. As president of the 
Gewandhaus Concert Committee he fought hard against the in- 

1 73 

!r f :zr?ss:oxr that Remained [1878 

conservatism of that body and it was mainly his work that the 
Idyll was forced on to the programme a crime to for- 
give him which took all Fran Livia's Christian charity, and needless 
to say she was among the absentees at that concert. He further 
managed the Gewandhaus balls, the big suppers given to passing 
celebrities; and started various innovations in sport, such as paper- 
on horseback and I think polo. Finally he had the best cook 
in Leipzig, and once told me his luxury was to expect whatever 
wine he ordered to appear on his table and . . . never to check his 
cellar-book. The same system of not enquiring into things too 
closely was observed as regards his sons, and I fear laid up trouble 
for him in later life. 

His wife had, in certain subtle ways, more affinity with the peo- 
ple one knew at home than anyone else in the town. I cannot quite 
sum it up by saying she was a gentlewoman there were other 
Leipzig ladies who could claim to be that of course but these had 
a touch of provincialism, whereas behind her quality was a larger 
civilization, something which I really believe none of her intimates 
noticed except myself. She was of an old patrician Frankfurt family 
and her conversation was interlarded with French phrases like the 
letters of Goethe's mother, another Frankfurt woman. Now here is 
a curious fact. I had no enthusiastic soul-to-soul alliance with her 
as with Frau Livia and others it was just the friendly relation 
between a woman of the world and a girl she is kind to; and yet, 
at the most difficult moment of my life, merely by taking it for 
granted that certain people don't do certain things, however 
strongly circumstances seem to point that way, she in great measure 
saved the situation for me as will be told when the time comes. 
Expressed gratitude, expressed anything, would have embarrassed 
her beyond words but . . . she knew that I knew; and afterwards, 
when terrible sorrow came to her, I think it was some comfort to 
talk to me by the hour, that silent bond being between us. 

In my experience with her I first learned, what subsequent 
knowledge of life has confirmed, that when you are in a tight place 
worldlings are often better Christians than the elect. And another 
thing; this old friend had peculiarities that most people found 
rather ridiculous and beyond which they never got. But such eccen- 
tricities often argue an absence of all preoccupation with self, a 

1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

purity of spirit that seems to me beyond all else rare and lovable 
and this was her case. 

The Limburgers were typically German in that, with the excep- 
tion of the mother and the one daughter, every member of the 
family was as much at home in music as ducks in water. They 
danced, shot, rode, skated, besides being assiduous young men of 
business, but all played the piano or some other instrument, and a 
new work performed at the Gewandhaus was as much an event for 
them as for the Herzogenbergs. Their criticisms may have been less 
technical but I discussed music as gladly with them as with many 
an expert; and this is the supreme charm of a musical civilization 
that amateurs are in it and of it as well as professionals. What a 
bore it would be if you could only talk books in literary circles, and 
what a comfort that reading can never become a fashionable fad, to 
which, alas! in unmusical countries music so fatally lends itself; 
thus does the smart world go to concerts in Paris, and in London to 
the opera. 

Before leaving the subject of Leipzig personalities I must men- 
tion two sisters who were an integral part of the scene. One, Frau 
von B., was the widow of the only aristocrat except Herzogenberg 
who had ever been a composer of merit. This wise and wealthy 
man, in order to satisfy the baulked maternal instincts of his child- 
less wife,, had left a small fortune for the founding of a home for 
seven poor musical students, to be built in his big garden and ran 
by his widow. On the subject of her guardianship of these ever- 
recurring batches of youths, popukrly known after the well-known 
folk tale as "the Seven Ravens/ 7 volumes might be written; how 
they were either talented but too rascally to keep, or talentless but 
too charming to turn out. The true stories of their escapades, to- 
gether with the versions they themselves related to their guardian, 
used to go the round of the town; I think she suspected the truth 
more than was generally supposed, but like many people found it 
convenient to feign ignorance. 

If this kindest, most generous and lovable of old ladies was a lit- 
tle on the grotesque side, her sister, Fran Dr. E,, was surely the most 
fantastic igure ever accepted and assimilated by civilized society. 
I have described the astonishing Leipzig dialect 7 but as spoken by 

Impressions that Remained [1878 

Fran Dr. E., who, from the crown of her head to the soles of her 
feet, showed what Nature in ungracious mood can achieve when 
she gives her mind to it, it tilled all conversation around her (just 
as the celebrated garlic of the Rosenthal overpowered the scent of 
other flowery growths); further, it was her habit to say out loud 
things which as a rale only escape one in unguarded moments. 

The advantage of a self-contained provincial society is that orig- 
inals are permitted to luxuriate in peace; thus amazing types of 
monk are seen prowling about in Italy such as are only produced 
within monastery walls. And when I think sadly of dead and gone 
romantic Germany, it is an additional pang to reflect that with 
dwarfs, gnomes, and witches on broomsticks, figures such as Frau 
Dr. E. have disappeared for ever. 

The first time I saw her was at a musical gathering at her sister's; 
I noticed a massive old woman yawning as if her jaw would drop 
off who presently said to Frau Rontgen: "Do not think, best Frau 
Concertmeister, it is because I am bored, but whenever your dear 
husband plays the fiddle it sets me yawning." I duly called on her 
later, as politeness demanded, and when I expressed regret at not 
inding her in, she remarked: "Well, I cannot say I regret it for to 
tell the truth you are to me from my heart unsympathetic but I 
believe the kernel is good!' She was a widow without family, rich 
and incredibly stingy, and being devoid of false shame, many of the 
E. anecdotes for ever flying about were on that theme. At a supper 
she gave to the Seven Ravens I heard her say loudly when a grand 
ice-cream appeared: "This Is only to be handed round once' 9 ; an- 
other time, while slowly turning the pages of a subscription list, 
she observed to the collector without a smile: "Let me see what is 
the smallest sum one can give.'* Again, cabs in those days cost five 
groschen for one person, and six groschen for two. A piteously poor 
friend of hers was once driven by her to a concert, and, knowing 
her patroness's peculiarities, duly handed over three groschen; and 
the incoming stream of concert-goers heard Frau Dr. E. say, in her 
slow, final way: "No, thou needst not pay half, but thy groschen 
thou canst well pay/' whereupon she selected and pocketed two 

There is in many circles of society an individual corresponding 
to the court fool, an enfant terrible who performs, like Tragedy in 


1878] Germany and T^o Winters in Italy 

the Aristotelian sense, a universal purgative rite, delivering other 
bosoms of perilous stuff. Such a benefactress was Fran Dr. E., than 
whom the world can better spare many a more decorative figure. 

CHAPTER XXI. Spring 1878 

XJL.ND now, having given some idea of the people who made op my 
new world, I will go back to the moment when I first met the 
Herzogenbergs that is 7 the end of February 1878. 1 knew at once 
for certain that we belonged in the same group, as the ensuing 
years were to prove, and though aware of her notorious aversion 
to new relations trusted to music to build a bridge between us, 
which it did. Both of them told me they had heard great reports 
of my musicality and I was at once asked to show off, I well re- 
member that Herzogenberg was far more forthcoming than his 
wife; and though she upbraided me In a friendly, semi-jocular man- 
ner for not having joined the Bach Vereln and urged me to do so 
without delay, it was he who, after cross-questioning me about my 
studies, suggested I should bring him my exercise books to look at. 

Of course I turned up with them next day, and was overwhelmed 
by his raillery of Conservatorium teaching, as he pointed out one 
gross uncorrected error after another. Both were genuinely inter- 
ested by my compositions, but again I noticed she was the more 
reserved of the two, and understood this reserve had nothing to do 
with the music. Finally Herzogenberg proposed undertaking my 
tuition himself. "It will be great fun/* he said, "for I have never 
given a lesson In my life; and what is more, 77 he added, turning to 
his wife, "thou, who hast so often bewailed thy contrapuntal ig- 
norance, shalt also be my pupil . . . and I shall meanwhile learn 
how to teach/ 7 

Needless to say I fell In rapturously with this proposal, insisted 
on his accepting some nominal fee, for honour's sake, ceased attend- 
ing my Conservatorium classes (ostensibly on the score of health), 

Impressions that Remained [1878 

and it was understood that before leaving for the summer holidays 
! was to give formal notice. I at once Joined the Bach Verein and 
began, with my lessons, an Initiation into Bach. Strange to say he 
did not reveal himself to me at once, not even in the Passion ac- 
cording to St. \latthew, which I heard on the ensuing Good Friday 
for the first time. Yet is it so strange after all? Between Bach and 
Beethoven there is at least as wide a golf as between Giotto and 
Grrd^r.e, and at that time my musical intelligence was only cul- 
tivated in patches. Before six months had elapsed Bach occupied 
the place he has ever since held in my heart as the beginning and 
end of all music; meanwhile the Herzogenbergs were doing their 
best to speed up matters. 

Shortly after I joined the Bach Verein an incident occurred 
which opened my eyes to the fact that Germans harboured feelings 
about the English of which we had no suspicion and which cer- 
tainly were not reciprocated. My enlightener, a stately black- 
bearded man with extra-polite Leipzig manners and rather a friend 
of mine I had imagined, was a certain Herr Flinsch Treasurer of 
the Bach Verein, one of our leading basses, and also, although I did 
not know it, a wholesale stationer. One day I went into a smart- 
looking shop and asked for some English writing-paper. An article 
was produced which did not meet my wishes, and I began describ- 
ing exactly what was wanted, repeatedly saying: "It must be Eng- 
lish paper/ 7 Suddenly from a back room in the shop my black- 
bearded friend darted out in a violent passion, and without one 
word of greeting launched into a diatribe about the paper trade 
informing me that as a matter of fact all the best so-called English 
paper was made in Germany, and merely sent to England and 
stamped "English" to satisfy (alas!) the snobbishness of his own 
countrymen, who still believed in the supremacy of English wares. 
A day was at hand however when German industry would no longer 
suffer these humiliations when all the world would know where 
the best of everything comes from, namely Germany. After which 
outburst the speaker bounced back into his den, again omitting any 
sort of greeting, and banged the door. When next we met at re- 
hearsal, and ever after, our relations were distant and dignified* 

During the few weeks of opportunity that remained to me for 

1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

the time being, I applied myself busily to two tasks; the first: orders 
of counterpoint, and the stealthy undermining of my fellow pupil's 
delicate bet unmistakable aloofness. Meanwhile, it might be asked, 
what did Fran Dr. Brockhaus, hitherto my great friend and con- 
fidante, say to these new developments? It had been arranged ages 
ago, long before the dawning of Lisl 7 that I was to go to the Berg, 
their country place near Dresden, for a few days after Easter; and 
though the idea of leaving Leipzig was now intolerable, especially 
since the Herzogenbergs were departing in the second half of 
April, I shrank from hurting Fran Doctor's feelings by breaking 
my engagement. Bet I w^as not a good hand at keeping things to 
myself and she soon found out she had a rival. Yet such was Lid's 
reputation for charm, genius, and so forth, that my older friend no 
more blamed me than Calypso and Circe would have blamed 
Ulysses for falling in love with Minerva, had the goddess seen fit 
to give that complexion to their alliance. I duly went to the Berg, 
but despite warm feelings of gratitude and affection towards my 
hostess, blessed the grand final Bach Verein concert that brought 
me back to Leipzig on duty after four days' absence. 

Then suddenly Fate did me a good turn. Immoderate work, com- 
bined with too much excitement generally, was telling on me. I 
had among other things become subject to violent fits of palpita- 
tion, and there were yet more drastic warnings, such as the roman- 
tic fainting on the ice, that health was giving way under the strain. 
At last one day, at a birthday party at the Klengels 7 , I collapsed 
altogether. Lisl, who was present, and who, though I was unaware 
of the fact, had gradually become attached to me in spite of her- 
self, insisted on taking me straight back to my attic, and during the 
rather severe illness that followed, really a nervous breakdown, 
nursed me as I had never been nursed before, putting off her de- 
parture from Leipzig a fortnight in order to see me through the 

And there, amid the homely surroundings of sloping roof and 
ramshackle furniture, began the tenderest, surely the very tender- 
est relation that can ever have sprung up between a woman and 
one who, in spite of her years, was little better than a child. I had 
heard, but almost forgotten, that the one sorrow of her strangely 
happy life was that she was childless; now I came to know that this 

I;;:prC':s:o~r:$ that Remained [1878 

zriet though seldom alluded to, was abiding and passionate (as a 
matter of fact this was the only spot of passion in her) . Shortly be- 
fore 1 met her, hope had finally been abandoned, and though one 
or two attempts to coax -j.r^Mr^ nature were made later on, It 
was without much hope as far as she was concerned. Thus I be- 
came heir to a fund of pent-up maternal love. 

Even/ day during that happy fortnight as the clock struck eight 
I heard her slowly climbing the stairs, pausing for breath methodi- 
cally at every fourth step; then the door curtain was pushed aside 
and the dear face, framed In a haze of golden hair ? peeped in cau- 
tiously lest I should still be asleep. Asleep! when I knew Lisl was 
coming! Except for two hours at midday, when her maid was sent 
to mount guard, she stayed with me the whole livelong day, wash- 
ing me herself, performing all the sick-room offices for me, cooking 
on her own little cooker the most tempting dishes her culinary 
genius could devise, reading to me, alternately petting and keeping 
me in order. And as I got better she used to play Bach and Brahms, 
including her own wonderful arrangement of the new symphony, 
knocked together In a few hours from the full score lent her by him 
before she had ever heard a note of It the sort of thing she did 
with no trouble, and made as light of as she did of her heart com- 
plaint. It was settled that though my mother must never hear of It 
I was really her child, that, as she put It, she must have "had" me 
without knowing it when she was eleven; all this with a character- 
istic blend of fun and tenderness that saved it from anything ap- 
proaching morbidity, of which she had the greatest horror. At that 
time our conversation was carried on in both languages, later always 
In German. She was one of the very few foreigners I have met to talk 
English with whom was not distressing; her accent was admirable, 
not indiscreetly so as is sometimes the case, but, like her vocabu- 
lary and handling of the language, easy, original, funny, and some- 
how or other just right as Indeed was everything about her. 

At the beginning of my Illness the doctor had feared permanent 
heart damage; not till this danger was finally ruled out and my con- 
valescence in full swing did she consent to leave me and depart for 
Austria with her husband, appointing Johanna Rdntgen chargee 
d'affaires. At every stage of the journey postcards were sent, and 
during the two weeks that elapsed before I was fit to start for Eng- 


1878] Germany and Tizo Winters in Italy 

land, the dally letter was the only event that counted, though 
mysterious boxes of choco!ates ? flowers, and books were continually 
being left at my door **by command of the gracious lady von Her- 

I missed her so dreadMlv that most nights my pillow was wet 
with tears a babyish weakness which, when she heard of it, 
touched but still more distressed her. Never was anyone more en- 
amoured of gaiety and serenity than she. After her departure I was 
allowed to see a few friends, and learned that in the early stages of 
my illness Anna, the servant, had remarked to one very stiff Leipzig 
grandee who had asked what was wrong: "Vielleicht ist das Frau- 
lein zu lustig gewesen" (Perhaps the Fraulein has been too gay) 
the sort of thing you would say of a student recovering after an 
orgy. Meanwhile a coterie of birds had settled in a tree near my 
window, and one of them, which at first I thought was a bullfinch ? 
but it was not, used daily to waken me with this little theme (on 
which 1 afterwards w r orked many contrapuntal exercises in Eng- 



For a moment I had feared this illness might furnish my father with 
an excuse for opposing my return to Leipzig later on, but that dread 
was dispelled by a sentence in a dear letter from Mother. "Of 
course, darling/* she wrote, "you shall go back; I told Papa it would 
kill you not to." This was the sort of thing that made me adore her 
so. Eventually I started for home about the middle of June in the 
charge of a girl I had made friends with, Nancy Crawfurd by 
name (now Mrs. Gould Ross), whom Lisl once referred to as "that 
nice girl with the kind nose/' and wiio actually put off her own 
journey home till I was fit to travel, having promised my new 
mother to deliver me safely into the hands of the real one. 

And now, at the outset of a relation which governed my life 
both humanly and musically for so many years, I should like to 
say in what medium this part of my memoirs is steeped say it 
once for all, not to touch on the subject again till a certain date 
seven years later has been reached. 


that Remained [1878 

1 said we were to be violently separated by Fate; when that 
separation became final I pot away all the letters from her I pos- 
never thought my eyes would rest on them again. In 
1892. a few months after her sudden death, a parcel arrived through 
a mutual friend, inscribed on the inner covering in her husband's 
well-known hand; "Ethel's letters to Lisl." This parcel I never even 
opened, but laid it, as in a \ T ault, beside the other in an old tin 
despatch-box of my father's, on which are painted his styles and 
titles as lieutenant in the East India Company's service a box 
ninety years old! 

When, a few weeks ago, it occurred to me by way of a pastime to 
write these memoirs, I meant to stop at the moment of my flight to 
Germany chiefly because I shrank from opening that vault. The 
resolution taken, for many days I was in a dream, staring at the 
tragedy with the dazed, uncomprehending eyes of thirty-three years 
ago ? astounded at the richness and beauty of that long tender friend- 
shipwondering, with the old, dull bewilderment, how such 
things can come to an end. Only by degrees did it seem possible 
to Ex my eyes on the happiest years of my early life and let them 
tell their story as they were lived without a thought of what was 
to follow. 


Elisabeth von Henggenberg ("Li$r) 

in fancy dress, iBjj 

Germany mid Tvo Winters in Italy 



From Myself to My Mother and Other Members of the 
Family, 1877-78 

[NOTE. I found the following tetters among my mother's papers, and 
such is the enthusiasm they radiate that I hope I may be pardoned for 
printing them with dl their youthful redundancies on their head (a 
temptation to tone down the slanginess of the style having been resisted 
with some difficulty) . It must be remembered that those at home were 
waiting to hear whether my claim to having a vocation was illusory or 
not, so no wonder I nearly went off my head with joy at the encourage- 
ment I met with, and eagerly reported it 

I lit on these letters some time after the corresponding part of the 
main text had been writien 7 consequently a few incidents are described 
twice over the only time this will happen in these pages. But I think 
it may amuse other memoir-writers besides myself to compare the two 
versions separated by an interval of forty years!} 


Rotterdam: July 27, 1877. 

My own darling Mother, Here we are, safe and sound, after a 
most successful journey,, with all our luggage so far Intact and our 
persons washed and in order. . . . Well, once at Harwich we were 
the first people out of the train and the first on "board the steamer, 
thus getting the pick of the berths. We sat up on deck until one 
o^clock and anything more beautiful than the night you cannot im- 
agine, a very calm sea and brilliant moonlight. As we left the break- 
water behind we passed close to a bell buoy which tolled in the 
most eerie and dismal manner imaginable. I slept like a top till the 
stewardess called me just as we were entering the river. We were 
on it about an hour and a half, passing through quite the ugliest 
country I ever set eyes on, as fiat as a board and nothing but bul- 
rushes and poplar avenues leading apparently nowhere and planted 
apparently apropos of nothing in particular. The little villages are 
like toy villages and look as if painted afresh every morning, and 
the windmills are absolutely bewildering and all the colours of the 

bnSrcssio**:* tkzt Remained 

My billy-cock seemed to create great excitement and Interest 
among the Dutch sailors, as Indeed among some dirty boys in St. 
James's Park one of whom Informed me that I had got his father's 
hat on. At present 1 am writing in the coffee-room, and the dialect 
sounds like German bs!:y-hr.gT:are- There are plenty of asphalt 
patches the town, and Ham* and I are thinking of extempo- 

rising a net with a table cloth, marking out a court, and com- 
mencing a game of lawn-tennis. . . . We go on straight to-night, 
stopping nowhere, and arriving at Leipzig about eight to-morrow 
morning. We then repair to a hotel, wash, dress, etc., and go on to 
the Frledlanders. I shall in all probability write from there again 
to-morrow. I cannot realise that I am off one bit, and I did not dare 
talk about it yesterday for fear of realising it too much. 

Gcocl-bvc, my darling Mother. My dear love to all, and I do hope 
Nina and Violet are playing lawn-tennis a good deal . . . and sit- 

ting up! 

Your most loving child, 

Leipzig!! July 28, 1877. 
Something Hotel (Didn't catch the name). 
. All ideas are flown and I am mentally wallowing in one 
thought and one only, i.e., here I am ? and I have only just begun to 
realise that fact. You know we came straight through, and both 
slept like tops. The carriage was too full to admit of lying down, 
and yet I did not even feel stiff, nor I believe does Harry, who will 
probably speak for himself ere I close this. . . . Harry and I on our 
arrival made elaborate toilettes and sat down with zest to Kaffee 
and Broedchen, though we had gone through the same perform- 
ance at half-past five this morning at Magdeburg, and I have just 
come in from a prowl about town. Of course I at once repaired to 
the Conservatorium and gazed at that most gloomy edifice with 
feelings easier to imagine than to describe, though somewhat modi- 
fied by the fact that we were not quite sure which of seven or eight 
gloomy edifices in the block was actually the Conservatorium, as 
the latter adjoins the University and is much the same style of 
building. There were a good many students strolling about, with 
very festive caps and less festive, not to say stodgy, casts of counte- 


Germany and T^o Winters in Italy 

nance. Most of them wear spc::ai!c,i, all wear trousers that bag at 
the knee, and not a few are decorated with intersecting cots on 
their faces these latter swagger a good deal. We then repaired 
to the public gardens where I saw what my eyes had often pictured 
the masses of chairs, and in the midst the raised orchestra with 
desks all round. I see <k Egmont" is to be played to-night at the 
theatre; I wonder if we shall go. Harry thinks it is time to go to 
Place de Repos, so I close this for the present. . . . 


To Alice Davidson 

Place de Repos, Treppe G., Leipzig: July 30, 1877. 
. . . The sort of life ! at present lead is this: I get called at half- 
past six or seven, get up leisurely and ask for my breakfast, which 
goes by the name of "Kaffee." Each person has their own little 
tray, coffee-pot, plate of rolls, pat of butter, etc. You can have an 
egg if you like, but I don't. You have this meal in your own room, 
or else in the sitting-room quite promiscuously and independent 
of anyone else. There are beautiful public baths close by ? and after 
your coffee you repair to the baths. I mean to learn to swim by- 
and-bye. I then write and read and practise; dinner is at one, and 
consists of hot meat, always plainly and well cooked, generally meat 
cutlets or slices off the joint. Seldom the joint. Or else you have 
little wee chickens cut up into four bits and roasted in dripping 
(not gravy). The salads are truly wonderful, all sorts of vegetables 
cooked up cold in grease and vinegar, with little dabs of forced 
meat and bread dumplings scattered about it. Then one has cucum- 
ber, and yellow beans as hard as nails and very sour. Then comes 
the inevitable "Mehlspeise," a sort of sodden but well-mixed pie- 
crust stuffed with some plums or sweet cherries in between the 
sort of thing Papa would like the children and himself to live on. 
Then rolls (my pet "Franzbrodchen" and others) and butter ap- 
pear, and sometimes fresh fruit. After dinner the Frau Professor 
goes to sleep, I fancy, and about 3.30 or 4 we go into the garden and 
drink milk fresh from the cow and coffee and rolls, playing cards 
or reading. Whist is a favourite game, and Fran Professor, Thekla, 1 

1 FmnleinFriedHnder. 


Impressions that Remained 

Mr. B. ? and I are to play In an hoer or so. There Is a forest about 
five minutes from here which is ten miles through, and therein Is a 
"Restoration;" as they call them, where a glorious orchestra 
plays Mondays and Fridays, 

You would be astonished at the cheapness of everything here. 
Theatre tickets are is. 6d., and this morning I bought all that the 
soul of woman can desire In the shape of writing-paper, envelopes, 
pens, black and white cottons, Ink, boot-laces, etc., for about 
is. jVicf. Little things are less than one-third of the English prices 
and of course one is able to go continually to the Opera; yesterday 
we went to hear "Lohengrin" and this evening are going to hear 
"Aida"! Harry comes back to-morrow and leaves for Scotland on 
Thursday I think; as you know he's in Dresden at present ... he 
was so dear travelling. . . . 

Perhaps Mother would like to see this letter so do send It to 
Frimhurst and write soon, darling. On second thoughts send it first 
to dear old Mary to whom I shan't write till I have something to 


Friedrichsroda, Thiiringen: August 5. 

My darling Mother, As I mean Sunday to be my day for writing 
home, I herewith inaugurate that festival, sitting at 9 o'clock In a 
little arbour In a little garden in a little town in a little mountainous 
province called Thiiringen. We came here yesterday quite en masse, 
Frau Friedlander, Thekla, Marie, and the two Scotch girls who live 
with the FriedMnders, called Binning. Gustchen (Fraulein Re- 
deker) comes on Wednesday. We were met at the station by the 
great baritone of whom you have heard me speak, and of whom 
Jenny Lind says he Is the finest artist she has ever heard since 
Stocichausen Hen Henschel. As he always sang In London with 
my two, they are all great friends, and we shall simply have the 
loveliest music to be had anywhere all the two or three weeks we 
are here, for Herr Henschel was brought up to be a pianist and plays 
splendidly. He is a regular genius, and his compositions are lovely. 
I hear he draws most beautifully, but shall soon see for myself, as at 
10 o'clock we are going up there (he is staying with a Herr von 
Milde half-way up the mountains) to do music. It is too delicious! 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

The manners and customs are too funny. We live in a little villa, 
the whole of which would go into the hall at home, and in the cellar 
live four cows. On Sundays they are let out into the Selds. You hear 
ever so far off a horn, very fairly played, and presently a man 
appears, playing it all about the town, at which signal all 
the cows tramp forth with a most bewildered air and are driven 

German beds, till yon get accustomed to them, are not very com- 
fortable. To begin with y they are of wood and about the size of an 
ordinary crib. The mattress is ixed in, and over that a sheet, exactly 
the breadth of the bed and a little longer, is laid; on the top of you 
is a sort of pancake consisting of two sheets sewn together with 
bits of lannel between 7 the same size as the trader-sheet^ so that 
even were the mattress not glued to the bed, tucking up Is an im- 
possibility. If you are not a quiet sleeper, which I now am, all the 
things are naturally kicked on to the floor in no time. In the winter 
you have a feather-bed on top of you, which you wrap round you <L 
la martial cloak. And, oh, the butter and cream and Franzbrodchen 
and fruit and pure cold air! I shall have to wear a jersey here, so cold 
is it, and my appetite is perfectly alarming. We went on Thursday 
last to Halle where TheHa and Gustchen had to sing in one of the 
many Church concerts given here. I did not care about the two 
first things much, Mendelssohn's "Lauda Sion" and a Cantata of 
Bach's. But the last thing, Mendelssohn's "Forty-second Psalm/' in 
which the two had a long duet, was quite lovely. 

That reminds me not to forget to tell you that before we left 
Leipzig I went to hear Verdi's new Opera "Aida" (in which Patti 
plays in London). You know the scene is laid in Egypt, and one 
of the kings comes in with his victorious army, carrying trophies, 
i.e. dogs, cats, storks, frogs, and heaven knows what else, on the ends 
of long sticks. On anything being said of which the army approves, 
all the sticks are waved frantically in the air and the beasts get 
mixed up. How I laughed! Why will they be so realistic? 

Yesterday we stopped at Weimar and went to see Schiller's and 
Goethe's houses, and then their coffins. It was awfully interesting. 
Everyone is so fond of "Rothraut." I am going to print it and the 
five others, and sell them if I can. . . . 

Thank you, my darling mother, over and over again for your dear, 

Impressions that Rcithwied 

newsv letter. I am more than happy. Ham- will have told you how 
r-rr.-lc'-e?" and utterly at home I am here, and I think we are all 

reallv fond of each other. The German life suits me so wonderfully, 
everything eating, drinking, manners, etc. Frao Professor says I am 
as if I had been here six months at least, and I feel as if I had been 
here for years. In this musical country, strange to say, my music 
goes farther than in unmusical England, and my accompanying and 
sinking at sight are made much use of. Darling mother, indeed I 
will tell you everything* whether 1 am ill or well, happy, or, what is 
Impossible, unhappy. I can't help feeling glad to think I am 
missed. . . . 

B. is really a nice boy. You can*t think how good-natured he is to 
me, and if I allowed it would give me the very coat off his back. 
Old Frau F. I like the least of the party; she strikes me as an awful 
old humbug, always "Mein liebstes theuerstes Fraeulein" and such 
grimaces and posing. I don't think the Binnings love her. They say 
she is very kind and so on, but very slithery. To old Frau Professor 
1 am quite devoted, such a plain-sailing, simple, straightforward old 

. . . These German pens drive me wild. Could you in your next 
letter send me a couple of "J" pens, and in the next two more, and 
so on, as I can get no decent nibs in Germany. Dearest love to the 
children and best thanks for their dear letters. I am so glad Miss 
Periwig makes them sit up ? and hope their lawn-tennis will prosper 
when the heat is less intense. . . . 


Friedrichsroda: August 12, 1877, 

. . . Henschel is only 27, but he is gradually making a name for 
himself, and musicians take on an average 40 years to do this. One 
day when I was out of the room Thekla told him I composed, and 
on my return he asked me (as he afterwards confessed as a matter 
of politeness and with no expectations) to see something I had 
done. I produced a song we have no piano, but of course lie reads 
it through like a book. Mother! he said such things of my talent! 
Things I never even dreamed of. He said it was simply wonderful, 
and could not believe I had had no tuition. Of course he found 
faults, and afterwards told a friend of his whom I know that they 


Germany T\i*o Winters in Italy 

were faults arising from talent. In the afternoon we went to the 
von Mildes. He is the first man in the Berlin Opera, old now, but a 
great musician with a voice like a god ? and his wife is also very 
musical. Of course Hensche! was there and several other musicians, 
and I was asked to sing some things of mine. Mother! 1 wish you 
had been there. They were astonished, they all came round and said 
it was "merkwuerdig. wundervoll," and all the afternoon, when 
Henschel was strumming, as he only can strum, between the songs, 
he kept on coming back to the modulation at "Schweig* still, mein 
Herz" in "Rothraut" which pleased him hugely. Afterwards, when 
we were all supping, our host proposed the health of the artists and 
coupled with it the name of "one who has but lately come among 
us and whom we hope to keep/ 7 and once again I was feted 7 and oh 
I wish you had been there! The bliss of knowing that when I went 
on so about cultivating my talent I was not wrong! For though 
I felt it myself, I sometimes doubted whether it was only for a 
woman, and an Englishwoman living in a not musical circle, that 
1 was anvthing particular in music whether such talent as I have 
deserved to have everything else put aside for it. And now I know 
it does deserve it! The greatest musical genius I know has seen my 
work and so to speak has given it his blessing, and it is well with 

me . . . ! 

Don't think, mother darling, that this makes me lose my head, 
that I fancy I have only to put pen to paper and become famous. 
It is just this: men who have lived among musicians all their lives, 
who have been hand in glove with Schumann and Mendelssohn, 
and are so with Brahms and Rubenstein, say they seldom saw such 
talent, in a woman never, and I can but tell you all this. I know 
though that years and years, perhaps, of hard work are before me, 
years in which little or nothing I do shall be printed this I have 
resolved on and in which I shall be nobody, and at the end of 
which is perhaps a laurel crown awaiting me in the shape of a 
name! But the end is worth the uphill struggle^ and if application 
and hard steady work can do anything I ought to get it. 

I go up every day into the mountain and compose. Then to the 
von Mildes I go a good deal, and am very welcome I think so it 
seems! Then we go up to the meadows and play croquet, and then 
up to where Henschel lives and sing, sing, sing! Oh, those three! 

Impressions that Remained 

Tliekla is not in good voice, but Meine Koenigin, alias Fraeulein 
Redeker, is in first-rate voice, and the music we have simply defies 
description. She is at this moment wandering about in a pink 
dressing-gown singing Scenas out of an opera of Rubinstein's, and 
it is rather distracting. 


Do you know she sings from |Q) -.. " 1 ! 

It is a glorious voice and wont be kept in. She is literally bub- 
bling over with singing. Yesterday all four of them sang for a charity 
in the church, but I never do care for sacred music except, oh! I 
must except, the bass duet, "The Lord is a Man of War/' which is 
certainly a grand thing. Henschel sang it with Santley at the Handel 
Festival. . . . 

Please send on my accounts to Papa! My German gets on Ai, I 
always speak it, even to the Scotch girls. , . . 


Friedrichsroda: August 19, 1877. 

. . Fancy, staying in the house with Henschel is your old Wild- 
bad friend, Herr von Roumanim; he raves about Mary! He is a 
pleasant man and bade me remember him most kindly and re- 
spectfully to my Frau Mutter and Fraeulein Schwester! Also I was 
to tell you that now he wears his hair long, not like a tooth-brush, 
as when you knew him. 

I have had several talks with Henschel about my music and am 
most awfully happy at>out it. He thinks more of my talent than 
ever I did! and has written about me to Brahms with whom he was 
almost brought up, and to Simrock, the publisher. It is so glorious 
to "be told by competent persons that one's future lies in one's own 
hands, that the material for realising hopes I hardly ever I think 
never breathed at home even, is there; and I have but to work 
hard and steadily and then not be too soon pleased with myself. 
Every day I become more and more convinced of the truth of my 
old axiom, that why no women have become composers is because 
they have married, and then, very properly, made their husbands 
and children the first consideration. So even if I were to fall des- 


Germany Two Winters in Italy 

perately in love with BRAHMS and he were to propose to me, I 
should say no! So fear not that I shall many In Gcnr.sny! I told 
Henschel my opinion, and he said perhaps I was right, but as he 
himself has, I am told, an "ungluecldiche Liebe" 2 on hand, I don't 
think he Is a judge! He is so good to me, corrects my songs for me 
(I have composed lots more) sets me basses on which to construct 
chorales and all sorts of things; and yet I know If I were Henschel 
It would be a great pleasure to me to get hold of a new pupil to 
give a friendly shove-on to during a three weeks' do-nothing stay 
In a little primitive town. ... I am 7 as always, very, very happy 
and oh so well. . . . 


Leipzig: August 22? 1877. 

, . Your dear letters are so very welcome; I think of you I don't 
know how many times In the day, and like to think that If your 
third daughter Is giving you a great deal of trouble, the time may 
come when you will be proud of her. Do you remember I told you 
I should be just as all the rest In the Conservatorium, that we were 
treated like prisoners, known only by our numbers so to speak? 
Well, it is so, but here am I, not yet entered and yet known to the 
first masters! Is not that something to be pleased at! ... I heard 
"Euryanthe" the other day and was much bored. I do not rave 
over Weber, but have not yet heard "Frelschuetz." ... I do hope 
Papa will send me some money soon. I know you will be pleased to 
hear that for want of time I must give up violin and devete myself 
to piano. ... 

Mother darling, as I always wanted to learn to swim, and as when 
once you do swim, swimming baths are much cheaper than others, 
I have begun learning It. The whole course of teaching costs gs. 
however long It lasts, and then 3$. tip to the teacher. You can then 
bathe every day for 3$. gd. a quarter, whereas In the other baths 
bathing twice a week costs nearly 1 a quarter. So in the end It is 
cheaper. If, however, you think this unnecessary I have still enough 
of the 5 papa gave me on my departure to pay for it, so please, 
mother darling, tell me what you think. 

There seems every prospect of Mr. Ewing coming here for a few 

2 Unfortunate attachment 

Impressions that Remained 

days in November or December; 1 wish she could come too. . . . 
Mass lias set me a sonata to write!!! I have done the first three 
movements, and very ugly two are. 


September 9, 1877. 

. The ^v~:r.:r.s is going on famously. On the third day I was 
In a great fright as ascertain Fran Doktor who began with me could 
do it better than I, and as you know, owing to my muscularity, I 
generally do athletic sports better than most women. However, on 
the fourth day I balanced myself on the end of a sofa while Fran 
Professor, who is not small, sat at the other end ? and flourished 
arms and legs to such advantage that the next day I swam, with a 
cord, all round the bath several times, and the Frau Doktor was 
plunging about like a porpoise, swallowing pails of water, and leav- 
ing nothing to be seen above water but an agitated pair of heels 
going like a semaphore. Now I have beaten her all to smash, and 
small credit to me, as she is about 150, I should think, and goes 
about on dry land in a muslin cap with sort of butterfly bows in 
yellowish-red. I discovered to my intense astonishment that she 
lives in this very house, is in fact Herr Maas's landlady. One day 
when 1 went for my lesson 1 heard her scuttling down the passage 
and the banging of a door half-way up the same, so being versed 
In the ways of the Fatherland I stood still and waited, and sure 
enough out comes the head, yellow bows and all, Is half withdrawn, 
and then 1 am recognised, and out dashes the Frau Doktor In Schlaf- 
rock and curl-papers, and you can Imagine what an affecting meet- 
Ing we had. . . . 

I send you a photograph of myself that I had done for fun with 
my hair down; the rude Henschel said: "Sehr huebsch als Bild, 
auch als Photographic, aber Sie muessen mir ugeben dass Sie 
nicht 50 huebsch sind!" s I told him he had never seen me with my 
hair down and that that made all the difference! 1 

There are two or three things in Germans that I should like to 
alter; as regards men ? that they smoke the vilest cigarettes and spit 
so recklessly. As regards the women, they have got it into their 
heads that the fashionable and chic thing to do is to scratch all their 

8 Very pretty as picture, but you must admit you are not as pretty as that! 


Gemiany and Ti^o Winters In Italy 

hair up on the '"bend of the head" 1 used to talk so modi aboot, and 
then plant a very fly-away hat at the extreme back of the erection. 
You would scream at the fashions and the attempts at :^n:cth:r.g 
very killing, ps:t:cv-kr!y In the theatre. As regards both sexes, I 
wish one could Impress upon them that it is possible to walk in the 
town without banging against ever}* soul you meet. I can't describe 
to you how unmannerly everyone Is, bar the students, in this re- 
spect. At first I made way for people and fancied that everyone I 
met was in a great hurry and must be excused. But finding that my 
whole walk became a perpetoal hopping on and off the pavement, 
like a canary between two perches, I resolved to do in Rome as the 
Romans do; since then, thanks to the muscular development of 
which I am so proud and to which I now give full play, I have most 
exhilarating walks. . . . 

How splendidly the Russians are doing, bet the Turks, too, are 
doing wonders. Perhaps this war will raise the tone in Turkey sup- 
posing Turkey wins, but then it is the tone of the upper classes in 
Turkey that wants raising, and war won't affect them so much as 
the people. . . . Poor France! But how like the French to quarrel 
over Thiers* body and come to blows over the funeral! ... I am 
going to-day to hear "Tannhaeuser"; it will be most interesting after 
seeing the Wartburg with my own eyes. On Tuesday and Thursday 
GREAT TREATS are in store for me, for I am to hear "Don Giovanni" 
(in German) and "II Flauto Magico" for the first time! The other 
day I saw the great Marie Geistinger in Schiller's "Maria Stuart." 
The Geistinger was such a Maria as one dreams of. She is very, 
very beautiful, and, oh ? how she acts! I always wept when I read 
that play; even the stony, tearless Mai}- wept at Miss D *s, I re- 
member, when we read it! So you may imagine how I howled 
in the theatre! Geistinger's voice is so wonderful deep and 
thrilling and she has more jewels they say than Patti In one 
piece she plays in next week she wears them all nearly. She is 
equally good in comedy, but then there are many first-rate com- 
edy players, and I don't think many can play tragedy like the 
Geistinger. She is a Baroness by birth and by marriage, and became 
an actress a real actress., not a Lady Sebright from sheer love 
of it, and her husband stands in the wings! I am sure to meet her 
at the Brockhauses. They are great people here, have a splendid 

Impressions Remained 

house, hold court of all the talent of the stage and studio in the 
town. Thanks, thanks; thanks for the "J" pens. . . . 


Place de Repos, Treppe G. HI, Leipzig: September 16, 1877. 
. . . Haven't the French a delicious expression about people wear- 
ing "ribbons," for instance, "that swear*'? I often think of that 
when I see a Teuton arrayed in her Sunday best, strolling no, 
German ladies can't stroll either jigging or stalking down the 
Promenade. I am going to-night to see Marie Geistinger In "Adri- 
enne Lecouvreur," translated into German of course. I daresay you 
know the piece. Adrienne was one of Rachel's great parts and 
from what I've read of Rachel I should think the Geistinger could 
do all Rachel's r61es. I nearly had a fit to-day on hearing she is 
nearly 50!!!! She has the movements, figure, and voice of a girl! 
Of her face one can of course not judge; and this wonderful crea- 
ture is here for four years! It is very delightful. . . . 

I am a little behindhand with my work this week and must 
make up before Wednesday, I am so glad Violet can do back- 
handed half-volleys. She should practise against the house, and 
tell her that I don't mean that she and Nina shall beat me when I 
come! Darling Mother the picture that always hangs on the wall 
of my memory is summer, and home again! I must be very careful 
of s. d. and if at the last minute ft should be found better 
for me not to come home, I will not grumble. But it is a long 
time hence! , . . Local news interests me immensely! More "J" 
pens!!! . . . 


September 23, 1877. 

... It is (or has been) freezing here, and yesterday for the first 
time I started the stove! As you know, there are no fireplaces in 
Germany. I was horribly frightened of it, for when first lit it groans 
in a most alarming way, but it is, as a matter of fact, quite harm- 
less. The heat these stoves throw out is enormous, and the room 
warms in about five minutes as completely as if there had been a 
fire there all day; but the nuisance is that unless you wish to be 
frizzled up with heat you must put on very little coal, and keep on 


Germany and T^o Winters in Italy 

so doing about every half-boon This makes me rather wild, bet for 
a person living the sort of life I do here it is much better to have a 
thing like a stove that acts at once than a ire. I let out the stove 
(which retains its heat all night ) at 7.30 (supper-time), aod it is 
then laid all ready for lighting next day. In the morning I fly out of 
bed at 5.30 and apply a match thereto (unlike a fire it always burns 
when once lit!!}, get into bed again, set the alarum on half an hour, 
and when I get up at six the room is warm and the little pot of 
water I placed on the stove boiling so that I am sure of hot 
water to wash in (all Germans wash in cold, all winter through, 
and this I am sure is a key to the inadequacy of the perform- 
ance!!). . . 

The great Sonata is finished!! That is, I am putting a touch or 
two to the last movement (a Rondo ), but by my next lesson on 
Wednesday all will be ready. Maas is very complimentary about it, 
and I myself am pretty well satisfied with the latter movements 
more because I feel now I am getting into working easily in the 
harness of form than because I think the Sonata itself particularly 
good. Three weeks ago I never could have believed it possible for 
me to launch out at once upon and bring to a satisfactory conclu- 
sion a piano work like a Sonata, and it is so encouraging to find a 
mountain melt into a mole-hill when you commence to scale it! 
The week after next is the "Aufnahme Pruefung," when all the 
new pupils have to enter the Conservatorium and play before the 
Directory in fact, show off! Maas says I am to play the Sonata!! 
and as it is difficult I am now studying it with him! This will be a 
great recommendation for me at the outset of my career within 
those newly whitewashed walls. 

After all I am not particularly quick at swimming nor the re- 
verse, but about average! Fat people learn quickest, as they float 
better and have more leisure to think about making the move- 
ments properly. Those who, like me, have heavy bones and a thin, 
muscly frame, have at first greatest difficulty in keeping afloat but 
make the best swimmers in the end, and can dive, etc., better. I 
enjoy the Schwimm-Bassin immensely. The other day I came rather 
early the gentlemen were not yet out so I sat in the lobby and 
chatted with the swimming mistress and her two daughters, and 
said it was a great pity they had no piano there (in Germany you 

7-r;;--vv. : c~7 tkzt 

alwavs End a well-timed piano in all waiting-rooms and restaurants, 
etc. , , At this moment in came a tall woman In black, who owns the 
whole "Sophienbad" hearing my remark entreated me to 

come upstairs and play on her piano. So I did, and sang away like 
fun. They were enchanted of course!!! and begged me to be "too 
early** as often as possible. . . . 

O Mother! now that the cold weather is coining 1 sometimes get 
a sort of sick feeling "Hunting"!! -But one can't have every- 
thing, and if you have got what is best in life you can't expect to 
have what is second-best as well! 

Rubinstein comes in November, also Schumann. Krebs next 
month!! Joachim also! Glory! . . , 

To Nina Smyth 

Tuesday evening, October 9. 

. . . First I must tell you a proud moment is drawing near for 
me! In the Conservatorium you must have cards, as almost every 
interview with the "heads" must be prefaced by a sending up of 
your card. This is natural, as people of all nations are at the Con- 
servatorium, and the names of 300 pupils are not easy to learn off 
by heart. My dear there are two real live mulattos and one nigger 
here! The negress (for she is of the "fair" sex) is by way of being 
a great dresser. Nature manages her hair of course (and I'm sure 
no art could manage it), but she affections long gold ear-rings and 
most skittish bonnets, and wears gloves on all occasions. I suppose 
she forgets her face, and thinks that then no onell see her hands. 
Then we've got a Norwegian with a red cap and tassel who parades 
about in a cassock and altogether is not unlike Uncle Charles; and 
three fire-worshippers who wear chimney-pot hats with no brims 
(sort of busbies made of top-hat material) and flowing robes like 
Papa's military cape, only more so. But I am wandering from my 
subject I meant to show it was not unbridled vanity, nor reck- 
less expenditure on my part, that caused me to order 100 visiting 
cards for is. 3^. with my name and address!!!! If ever there was a 
peacock I am that peacock, almost as grand as you will be when 
you can read writing. . . . Fm going to send home such a sausage 
to Mama by Mr. Ewing it's like the most beautifully delicate 


Germany Ttu0 Winters in Italy 

forced meat vou ever tasted. Marv would eat a whole at a sit- 

* * 

ting I fancy. ... I don't think I ever appreciated the necessity of 
temporary spinsterhrrcd fat any rate, If not total j to certain kinds 
of lives, til! I came here!! You may rely upon that and fear no 
brother-in-law. . . . 

P.S. I fear there's no chance of the contingency Violet sug- 
gests that I should tire of Leipzig and come home before my 


To My Mother 

October 26 (approx.) 7 1877. 

... It was so funny this morning I had been dreaming that I 
was at home and showing you the new hat I have bought, and you 
were saying: "Well, it looks a great deal better on the head than in 
the hand"!! when I awoke. I have so often dreamed at home that I 
was in Leipzig, that this morning, before I knew where I was, I 
found myself feeling the wall and staring round the room to see if 
I was in my bed at home or here. I saw that the wall was browii 
and said to myself "then I must be in Leipzig/' and dozed off again. 
In fact often now I wonder if I shan't "come to myself in my bed 
at home and find I've had a fever or something, like people in 
books!! The work over that counterpoint told on me a little tho' 
the only symptoms are generally sleepiness and disinclination to 
compose. Of course I took that latter very easily, as often at home 
I felt "is It possible that I, who to-day feel like a doll with a mashed 
turnip for a brain, ever composed?" The inclination always comes 
again and en effet returned to me yesterday when I got on a bit with 
my new "Geistinger Sonata" and wrote a song. (The first sonata Is 
dedicated of course to you, Mother darling.) 

The story of the Geistinger Sonata is indeed a queer one it 
was begun last Sunday. I had already begun to feel "verstimmt" 
and unimaginative when . . . 

[Here follows an account of my calling on the Geistinger as de- 
scribed in the text, but of course the dight feeling of disillusion- 
ment is not mentioned.} 

. You can imagine the effect of this visit! I came home, felt 

Impressions that Remained 

another creature, and forthwith composed I think the best thing 
I have yet done the skeleton of a "first movement" of a new 
sonata. It is really programme music, though no one would know 
it! I have the whole scene there going up the stairs, the "Herz- 
klopfen" at the door, and all! I When it is finished I have secured 
the services of the best player in the Conservatorium to play it at 
the Abendunterhaltung. But that may be ages hence. I haven't 
filled up the first movement yet and don't feel at all in a "sonata" 
mood at present. I shall show it to Reinecke next Thursday. 

The counterpoint master is always urging me to make the ac- 
quaintance of some girl who sings well, and get her to sing some of 
my songs in the Abendunterhaltung. I always put it off but must 
see about it this week. It's rather a horrid thing to have to do, but 
as everyone does it I may as well! ... I could not read all of your 
last letter!! The ink was bad. . . . 

October 1877. 

. . . Ever so many thanks for your letter, but do you know, Mother 
darling, it took me more than 20 minutes to read it and almost half 
a page is still a mystery to me. Do ask Papa to give that horrid 
cheap blue paper to the children, who write with spider-leg pens, 
and whose letters are almost readable even when written on that 
paper. But you write large and black, and it's utterly impossible to 
make out half your letters unless you wrote on only one side of 
the paper, and in the end that would be false economy. When 
Aunt Judy wrote to me from Frimhurst she had to write so, as her 
hand is also very black. If you write on blue Frimhurst paper, I 
only get such a short letter, and as one depends a good deal upon 
letters fron\home surely he could get some other paper? You see I 
am rather sore on this subject!! as I have already sent two fruit- 
less appeals to Papa!!! . . . 

Last night at the Chamber Music (do you remember at Aunt 
Louisa's that day our discussion about the "Chamber pieces"!) 
Saint-Saens, the great French composer, who besides that is the 
greatest player I ever heard, bar Rubinstein (though probably he 
is not so many-sided if one knew him as well), played and was 
called back nine times and played two encores at the end of all 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

things for the benefit of the Conservatories, who went utterly wild 
over him, and (when he was here a month ago) sent him a testi- 
monial!! When Saint-Saens drove away, such a row you never heard. 
They wanted to take the horses out, and drag him home luckily 
for him however (as he was undoubtedly hungry) his coachman 
drove on at the first cry of "Spannt die Pferde ab!!" 4 (While I 
have been sitting writing this letter at my window, which looks out 
on the Promenade about 100 yards away, Fve seen three dwarfs go 
by!!! This will give you an idea of the number in Germany. It's 
horrid.) , . . 

November, 1877. 

. . . Poor Professor Brockhaus (brother of my friend) has died of 
that horrible disease "trichinosis," caused by the existence of little 
animals in pigs which (when the diseased pigs are made into a 
particular kind of sausage, eaten almost raw) remain alive in the 
sausage and eat up the inside of the poor person who has taken 
that particular sort. With the Professor they settled in the lungs 
and behind his eyes, so that he first became blind and then died a 
most painful death. There have been but two instances of death 
from trichinosis which is not generally dangerous but lots of 
people are ill. Luckily I hate that sort of Wurst, and only tasted it 
once about three months ago, at which time the pigs weren't in- 
fected. Now, no Schweinefleisch is eaten in Leipzig we might be 
Israelites! . . . 

December, 1877. 

. . . Now that the winter is coming on I go a great deal in Gesell- 
schaft, and find that far from making me disinclined to work it gives 
one a fresh impetus thereto. For of late I have been overworking 
myself a little and have in consequence been catching it from Frau 
Brockhaus and her mother-in-law! Hearing so much music "greift 
so furchtbar an" 5 as they say here (a very pithy expression). To 
these Gesellschafts one goes either in ordinary evening dress or in 
a high dress like the tussore and blue. Thus the Ascot dress will 
be most useful, and as it will be worn only by candlelight do you 

4 Take out the horses. 5 Takes a lot out of you. 


Impressions that Remained 

think the fadedness matters? As it is such a, to Germans, marvel- 
lous make, if you cannot get it dyed in England without taking it 
to pieces, they do them here whole very well and cheaply. Also, 
Mother darling, would you send me one or two of my long petti- 
coats petticoat bodices I fancy I have with me at the bottom 
of the box among my summer things. If you can, do send the Ascot 
dress with the other things, as that will come in so useful. 

Towards Christmas, darling Mother, I get Heimweh 6 too, and 
I think oh so often of home and you all. I wish they'd be quick 
and set up a telephone between Farnborough and Leipzig! But the 
person who in every way tries to fill the place of Mother to me 
who interests herself for me and gives herself more trouble on my 
account than I can describe to you who scolds me and tells me 
I am hopelessly childish and inexperienced who tells me what 
to do and what not to do and who I do believe is getting fond 
of me is Frau Edouard Brockhaus of whom I shall always speak 
as "Frau Doctor" (her husband is a B.A.) . Through her I have an 
entree into all the best houses in Leipzig and "move in the circles' 7 
(vide Calverley!) after a fashion that would delight Herr Schloes- 
ser's heart I! But what I prize more than anything I get through 
her is her friendship and guardianship. I can go to her beautiful 
house and sit there and talk to her whenever I have time. I tell her 
everything I have been after, and whom I have seen, and she always 
tells me she feels responsible for me! I am indeed in luck to have 
her for a friend. 

Marie Geistinger has returned at last! I was told by someone who 
had seen her arrival in Leipzig that she left the station in five cabs 
one for herself, maid and dog, and four others "lauter Koffer"! ! 7 ) . 
The extensive Garde-robe of course! The other day I met the Di- 
rector of the Stadt Theater and his wife (great swells) at a party, 
and that's nice, for if they took a fancy to one, you meet all sorts of 
interesting people there including the Geistinger perhaps. . . . 

Thank you, Mother darling, so immensely for your photo of 
Hugo most excellent but what I want is one of my beauteous 
Mother. To-day by Frau Dr. B/s desire I took her all the photos I 
have of my family, but yours I wouldn't take, as I do so hate to 
show people such a vile likeness. . . . 

6 Homesickness. 7 Nothing but trunks. 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 


December 16, 1877. 

My darling Mother, - Fve got such a lot to tell you I hardly know 
where to begin. (I instantly make a large blot down below by way 
of prologue! ) I think I shall keep the best part the musical 
for the end and instantly launch into the dissipations I have been 
indulging in. 

I have told you that my dear Frau Dr. Brockhaus holds all Con- 
servatorists in greatest abhorrence, and I believe she'd like me never 
to speak with any of them! However, there I strike and say one 
must be friendly with the girls in one's class. Well, her great idea 
is that by planting me firmly in her society (and anyone protegeed 
by her is always kindly treated) I shall escape the shoals and quick- 
sands of Bohemianism in the Conservatorium. So I have now been 
introduced to all the swells in Leipzig yesterday I wound up with 
the Limburgers (German Consul) and Baroness Tauchnitz, a dear 
very handsome old lady about as tall as Mrs. Oswald Smith. In con- 
sequence of this I got an invitation to the "Professorium" an 
entertainment given by the Professors of the University. It consists 
in the following. You dress yourself as for a small dance in England 
(I had to put on my black, and Indian scarf, as the floor was said 
to be dirty and I didn't want to spoil my green silk) . The proper 
thing is for all young girls to go in white, and (bones, red elbows 
and all) "ausgeschnitten." 8 Frau Dr. wanted me to do so, but I 
Rebelled and said I couldn't turn German all at once, and that peo- 
ple would say on seeing my black gown (quite unheard-of for girls 
here! ) "Eine Englaenderin" and pass on. Well, first of all you enter 
the ball-room and find it filled with rows of chairs arranged in cir- 
cles and at the one end a little dais and thereon a. table. When 
all have arrived, one of the Professors mounts the dai's and delivers 
an address sometimes long and stupid sometimes (then for 
instance) short and sweet. After this is over a scene of the wildest 
confusion ensues, for suddenly apparently from the bowels of the 
earth, like the demons in the last act of "Don Giovanni" the 
room is filled with waiters bearing long tables with which they clear 
the course, and then follows supper. It consists chiefly in waiting 

s D&olletee. 


Impressions that Remained 

for the next course, but is pleasant on the whole. When this is over 
the rooms are cleared again and dancing begins. Everything is man- 
aged by an omnipotent "M.C." and the dance opens with a Polo- 
naise, Le. a long procession is formed two and two, and then off we 
go round and round the room, describing all manner of curious 
evolutions like a big sea-serpent. The Polonaise lasts till the band 
has had enough of it and then comes a Valse. 

Oh 7 Mother, I could weep over the waltzing! Any one of my 
partners would have been turned out of an English ball-room as 
dangerous. You know how I like to dance very, very slowly and 
quietly, in perfect time, beginning at the beginning of the dance, 
and going on to the end without turning a hairl! Well, imagine me 
seized upon and whirled round the room, often on the floor, often 
in mid-air, never at a less rate than 16 miles an hour. Your partner 
hops nearly up to the ceiling and unless you want all your teeth 
knocked out you must hop too. No sooner have you pantingly im- 
plored to stop a minute than up comes another gentleman and 
begs for an "extra tour." Off you fly again, once round the room, 
and are delivered over to your original partner who whirls you oflE 
again without further delay. If another couple cross the course you 
promptly send them spinning out of the way (how that used to 
annoy me at home when any daring partner did such a thing; here 
no one minds aching shin bones, bruised arms, and loosened teeth 
I declare mine felt quite loose at the end of the ball) . Everyone 
bangs, pushes, hops, kicks, and jumps with all the good humour in 
the world and the rather elderly professors are quite as game as the 
students. Well, after the valse come quadrilles (something like 
ours), Tyroliennes (sort of Mazurka where to hop up to the 
clouds is the thing) , galops (where to shoot along the room straight- 
forward as if you were skating is the thing), and polkas (where to 
behave as much like a dangerous lunatic as possible is the thing) ; 
also two or three "eingeschobene" or extra valses are danced. You 
may ask, did I not collapse completely before the ball was over? 
particularly when I tell you that there is no refreshment table and 
that it is only with great difficulty that you can procure a glass of 
raspberry vinegar (which I abhor!). I should certainly have col- 
lapsed did not my nationality come to my aid. It is quite unusual to 
sit and rest between the dances. Directly the dance is over your 


Germany and T'wo Winters in Italy 

partner conducts you back to your chaperone, and at that Instant up 
comes your next partner and claims you. You then walk about for 
perhaps ten minutes, no idea of sitting. The theory is that sitting 
makes you so tired! I pleaded however that in England it was the 
custom, and that I should have to be borne home on a stretcher if I 
didn't sitl Next day I was utterly helpless, so was Mrs. Forster. 

Have I spoken to you about the Forsters? ... a young couple 
who are here for two years. She is a daughter of the celebrated Mrs. 
Benyon, chere amie of Robert Browning (I pointed both out to you 
that night in Tenterden Street, when Browning got in such a rage 
with the man who pushed). Mrs. Forster I often saw she was 
there too and has a face one doesn't forget. Her husband is studying 
at the University here, and she amuses herself at the Conserva- 
torium. She had a letter of introduction to Mrs. Brockhaus also, so 
it's very jolly. We go about to these places a good deal together 
and are very fond of each other. Mrs. Brockhaus declares that some 
balls are coming to which I must go "ausgeschnitten" and ought to 
go in white. As I have no white dress here I can't go in white, but 
might have my two dresses, the black and green, cut down low very 
easily qu'est-ce que tu en dis? 

Now for the musical part! I now have two composition lessons 
during the week, and yesterday, for the first time, I took some 
things to Jadassohn (whose new symphony has just been given in 
the Gewandhaus with much applause). I think I have told you 
there are but three girls in the Conservatorium besides myself who 
compose. Well Jadassohn just said what Henschel and the others 
said. ... It has come round to me that he gives out that I am 
the only really talented composeress he has met in his whole life. 
... I am waiting in great excitement for my box from home. I 
quite forget what evening dresses I had. If there are any in good 
repair very good, for Frau B. has eyes like a lynx please send 
them, Mother darling. I think all my ball-dresses were danced 
out! . . . 

December 21, 1877. 

My own darling Mother, I have written in all 12 Xmas letters! 
(8 to home people!) and now as a bonne bouche write my letter 

Impressions that Remained 

to you. Mother darling, I wish you knew how much I am thinking 
of you all. I don't think you've been out of my thoughts one hour 
ever since the Xrnas season came in, and as Xmas Day draws near 
I feel more and more the many miles there are between us. A very, 
very happy Christmas to you, Mother darling, and a bright New 
Year. Your dear note, announcing the despatch of the box, just ar- 
rived. I will tell Frau B. that you would rather I did not go decol- 
letee and I'm sure there'll be no difficulty about it. The beautiful 
white dress will do for Baroness Tauchnitz's grand party on the 
i4th. It sounds much too good for a ball, and certainly shall not 
be worn at one. . . . 

I'm very busy now over a four-part chorale any amount of 
Contrapunkt therein, Reinecke himself got quite interested in me 
last Thursday and set me my work himself, and I told you what 
Jadassohn (with whom I now also have composition lessons) said 
of me! Fancy, I am the only woman in the whole Conservatorium 
who has ever been promoted to composition lessons from Rei- 
necke!! I only lately found that out, and feel two inches taller ever 

You know, Mother darling, I am going to send my presents at 
Easter by the Binnings, but I can't resist despatching a box of the 
wonderful German confectionery only to be got at Christmas. I 
shan't tell you what they are (except that they are mostly "marzi- 
pan" or whatever you call that stuff that tastes like the almond on 
wedding-cake), but though they look too awful, fear not. They are 
from the renowned Wilhelm Felsche, Hof Coriditorei in Berlin (to 
the German Emperor), Vienna (to the Austrian Emperor), Dres- 
den and Leipzig (to the Saxon King) , and so on more renowned 
than Fortnum & Mason. But as soon as you've tasted them you'll 
know if they are good or not! 

I've been studying the Rondo in my first Sonata (yours) and at 
last have managed to master it after a fashion, as I suppose I shall 
have to play something and that's a taking sort of thing. You 
will be pleased to hear that despite my musically unorthodox tend- 
encies the first violin in the Gewandhaus orchestra, old Rontgen, 
said "that Rondo thema is so pure and fresh, that I could almost 
swear it was Mozart"!! I have set my pet poem of Shelley; 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

"My soul is an enchanted boat 
Which like a sleeping swan doth float 
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing" etc. 

but am not satisfied with it (as is Jadassohn! ) . It is hard to write up 
to such words. 

To-monow we shall be skating. Last night there were 20 degrees 
of frost and all day there have been 10 degrees, but the German 
police are really too cautious. However, everyone says this frost will 
last, as it came so gradually. . . . My darling Mother, I wish, I wish 
I could be with you for Xmas, but it's no good wishing what can't 
be, and all the telephones in the world couldn't bring me nearer 
to you than I shall be in thought all next week. 

Your ever devoted child. 

December 1877. 

. . . Our holidays last till Wednesday next; however I began com- 
posing a new Sonata yesterday, and mean to finish writing out the 
Geistinger Sonata to-night. I'll never write anything in CJ minor 
again! The slightest modulation, even into the next key (G$ minor) 
involves no end of double sharps, and the writing out is simply 
fearful! The second movement is undoubtedly the best thing I've 
done yet though Reinecke will persist in saying the third is "better 
work"! I But really with skating and Xmas week together I'm per- 
petually on the go. I've been skating hard and, you will be happy 
to hear, am the best lady skater in Leipzig. I never saw anything 
like the women here. Very few can do the outside edge and as 
for cutting figures!! . . . The German gentlemen are much struck 
of course, and think the English women a more wonderful race even 
than they did before! I think somehow or other I have improved 
very much in my skating, though I've not skated for the last two 
winters, seeing that we've had no ice at home! I go and practise 
when the pond is empty at 9 a.m. and can do lots of queer 
things now. . . . 

... I had great fun at the Rudolf B/s (up above the Ed. B/s) . 
They had a sort of dinner at 1.30, and after dinner we all went 


Impressions that Remained 

into the smoking-room (generally in German houses the last of a 
suite of 4 or 5, so that one can wander in and out at will) and ac- 
cording to student fashion each one sang a song followed by 
chorus! I had to conduct and was given the feather broom (with 
which the Italian curiosities I told you about are dusted) as baton! 
Afterwards I went down quietly to the Ed. B/s and we did music. 
Both the eldest sons who are now home on leave are very musical 
respectively sing bass and tenor, and play violin and cello. We 
did Haydn's trios and sang quartettes of Mendelssohn and Schu- 
mann at sight, and I sang with obligate accompaniment, and alto- 
gether it was very nice. That's what is so nice about Germany; al- 
most everyone you meet can take a part in a vocal quartett. . . . 
I'm rather sorry Frau Dr. and the Forsters don't hit it off so very 
well. Mrs. F. is a great dear, but a little heavy, and wanting in a 
most essential point, social talent. I mean she doesn't help to make 
a party go off well, and though she enjoys herself thoroughly doesn't 
manage to produce that impression! I see Frau Dr. is a little im- 
patient of that particular failing as she herself is so very much the 
other way. Mr. Forster is fearfully English and finds very little here 
to his taste, and though I think he tries hard to be cosmopolitan, 
he can't help showing some of the "Oh! bother! let's go home!" 
sort of feeling that besets him so continually! I'm very glad I am of 
a plastic nature, as plastic natures seem to get so much more fun out 
of life than stolid ones. . . . 

January 13, 7. 

. . . The Gewandhaus ball was grand fun, very swell. The wife of 
the Castellan of the Conservatorium had charge of the ladies' room 
and the respect I am now treated with by the menials and officials 
in the Conservatorium is most killing. The day after, when I "re- 
sumed my studies," all those I met enquired with great empresse- 
ment if I had found it agreeable! ... -<, 

I think Frau Dr. B. must feel me rather a responsibility, as 
firstly I am English, and secondly, I suppose, in the mere fact of 
the passion that brings me here, not quite like all girls. But I take 
a real pleasure in pleasing her and now she calls me "Du" and is 
very dear altogether. . . . 


Germany and TIDO Winters in Italy 

... I say most unhesitatingly that German beds are the most 
comfortable in the world. In the winter, if you're a quiet sleeper 7 
springs underneath and feathers (not too many) on the top of you 
is glory. . . . 

The whole river is frozen over, and we are going to make a party 
and skate down to Connewitz, a village 4 or 5 miles from here 
won't it be fun! Frau B. and other elders drive down meet us 
there and we all take tea together at a hotel but I doubt 
whether this plan will come off, even if the frost lasts. Skating plans 
never do come off somehow. . . . 


January 24, 1878. 

... I am so much distressed that I can't go on working away at 
my string quartett. My master was so pleased with the first move- 
ment. He's been telling lots of people about it, and there it lies, 
and I haven't the faintest inspiration to go on with it, thanks to 
this seedinessl However, inspiration is a thing that comes and goes 
like the wind, and one hasn't the remotest idea when and where it 
will spring up. ... I do hope my letter to Papa reached and that 
funds are en route. It will be too unpleasant to go penniless into a 
new pension. My address henceforth is Salomon St. 19. That is 
easy to remember! Solomon spelt with an "a/' . . . 


Salomonstrasse 19: Early February, '78. 

... I have to sing my songs everywhere (my voice is in very good 
form at present, for it! ) . But do you know I never felt more utterly 
hopelessly distrustful of myself and ashamed of myself than I do 
now. I can hardly help saying straight out in people's faces what I 
do say in so many words: "Oh yes, that's all very fine, but the ques- 
tion is, will my talent stand cultivation?" Years only can prove that 
question, for till one is through one's studies and has all one's ma- 
terial there, one cannot tell if one has profited by those studies and 
can use and shape that material. ... I am sorry about the ferns! 
I can so well imagine how you went into the porch, with your long 
Schleppe 9 sweeping into the small pools of water that always were 

9 Train. 


Impressions that Remained 

there In the morning, and discovered that the ferns were dead! But 
I do hope they will revive. . . . Has Papa told Curtis to sit up 
straight on the box and to drive less like the ratcatcher!!! I do hope 
his gout is better. 


Late in February, '78. 

... I waited till to-day to write to you for I wanted to tell you 
about last night. I was invited to a dinner party at one of the 
standard Leipzig houses (Brockhaus, Frege, Limburger, Tauchnitz 
and Lampe) on purpose to meet Mendelssohn's daughter, Frau 
Prof. Wach, who, it was prophesied, would take a great deal of 
interest in me. She is one of the sweetest, most charming little 
women I ever saw, very pretty and gentle, and has just that charm 
of manner that made her father so beloved. She is very like him in 
face and also exactly like someone we know very well, but I can't 
think whom. I sang about 12 songs of my own! one after the other 
and got more petting even than usual!! for the whole company was 
musical and glad to welcome a new "Collegin." Frau Wach was too 
nice and begged me to come and see her as soon as ever I could, so 
did some people I've been dying to know for ages but hadn't met 
before. Brahms stayed with them when he was here. Their name is 
von Herzogenberg. She is quite lovely a great musician very 
learned a daughter of the Hanoverian Minister in Berlin, Baron 
Stockhausen. The Tauchnitz were also there, and the Lirnburgers, 
with whom I have lately become very intimate and where prob- 
ably my string quartett will be played, if it is finished, before 
Easter. . . . 

The children of this house are very ill brought up, and the sec- 
ond day of my arrival the second, aged four, whose perseverance 
and straight eye cannot be too highly commended, threw a reel of 
cotton, half a roll, and the handle of a earthenware teapot, one 
after the other, at my head, despite vehement remonstrance on my 
part between each volley. Eventually I rushed at the offender and 
commenced carrying her off to her mama, but she squalled so fear- 
fully that I set her down very firmly on a chair and retired. Since 
then the infant has held me in great awe, but I heard her whisper- 
ing to herself the other day, "Das Fraulein soil Kinder gar nicht 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

gern haben, und junge Darnen kann ich nicht leiden!!" 10 1 nearly 
burst out laughing the child is really clever, for though I was dis- 
tinctly meant to hear what it said, it looked perfectly unconcerned 
as if it were soliloquising in solitude!!! . . . 

I wish you could see me dancing now, hopping up to the ceiling, 
arriving on the tips of my toes, looking well over the right shoulder, 
blowing into the face of my partner, and receiving in exchange 
many a blast from him and above all, my left hand not laid on 
his arm but curled elegantly round, fingers inward, as if a photog- 
rapher had arranged them!! Onward I fly, backwards, forwards, 
round the wrong way, and am considered a wonderful dancer!! How 
I long for a Mr. Young with a long, shooting, easy step (like Paddy's 
trot 10 years ago) that one can keep up from the beginning of the 
dance to the end. . . . 

March, '78. 

... I had such fun the other day. I don't know when I have 
laughed so much. There was a little soiree at the Brockhauses. As 
they live next door I couldn't well get a cab (Salomon St. consists 
of large detached houses with gardens) but it was pouring weather 
and our garden was a perfect swamp. So what do you think I did? 
The children here have a very large perambulator on four wheels, 
and this was brought down from the loft. How I got in I don't 
know, but it was such a tight fit that my knees were up to my nose, 
and I never got down as far as the seat but was wedged between the 
arms, tight! The whole head and all was then covered with a water- 
proof and, looking more like clothes coming from the wash than 
a human being, I was trundled along. I can't tell you how nearly I 
was upset, as naturally I was too heavy to allow of the Maedchen 
handling the perambulator as they do generally (pressing the back 
and elevating the front wheels ) and, with the four wheels to con- 
tend against, turning corners was perilous work. Just as I entered 
the portico, two guests arrived on foot whom I knew very well, and 
who could not make out who or what I was! One, a pompous old 
Hof-Capellmeister, nearly collapsed when I emerged gorgeous in 

10 They say the Fraulein doesn't like children and I can't bear young 

Impressions that Remained 

black and silver out of my vehicle. Since then I am fearfully chaffed 
and everyone wants to hire the "droshky von Frl. Smyth!" 

By the bye, did I tell you what capital luck I've had about um- 
brellas? I (of course) lost my nice new silk one about four months 
after I came here and to punish myself bought another for four 
shillings, which I condemned myself to carry about everywhere and 
which, of course, I did not lose! Well, one day I found in my room 
a very nice, nearly new, umbrella, mounted on a polished ash-plant 
silk of course! Really, I have made most conscientious enquiries 
about this umbrella and it belongs to no one! and I, of course, have 
appropriated it! Isn't that splendid? I think perhaps it's Henschel's! 
It was about the time of his visit that it appeared!! . . . 

March 16, 1878. 

. . . Clipsie gives me blooming accounts of my lovely mother 
says you looked splendid at the RJVLC. ball in grey silk and white 
lace and "so absurdly young!" When I come back it will be very de- 
lightful reproducing the old times sailing into a ball-room with 
you though, alas, I shan't know enough people to be detained 
one instant in the ante-room. . . . 

The only thing I object to here is the disorder the whole thing 
is what the Germans call a "liederliche Wirthschaft" xl meals 
unpunctual often too much salt in the bouillon which is re- 
marked upon every day but nothing comes of it. Then if a curtain 
gets torn it strikes no one to mend it you know the sort of thing. 
One good point about our new landlord is, that he will have fresh 
roast meat every day, so no more of those wonderful stews and 
messes that, being in Germany, I always eat and now don't object 
to, but never shall like!! 

... I think, Mother darling, I shall be able to pay dressmakers' 
and doctors' bills out of my songs. At least I shall try. If the money 
doesn't quite cover the sum it will nearly. Do tell Papa that as for 
the boots, really the 385. is economy in the end. The other pair I 
had in December 1876 at 385. are only just done for, and that 
through the skating chiefly for those Acme skates ruin boots fear- 
fully. I think next year Fd better have a cheap pair of boots made 

11 Hugger-mugger. 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

here specially for skating at 12$.! The buttoned boots, single soled, 
I had before I left home are still like new and look lovely! 

Now that the spring is here how I look forward to being at home! 
Coming back will be quite unlike anything else I ever experienced 
and the most heavenly thing I have done in my life as yet 
except perhaps when I began to know I hadn't come here in vain. 

May you never have anything so fearfully puzzling and confusing 
to do as writing your first string quarfett, Mother darling! My hair 
is growing grey over it! It will be finished before I come home 
and in the meantime do look up 4 performers and we'll have a 
grand chamber-music performance in the drawing room! . . . I've 
lost my Counterpoint book and without it am as Samson shorn 
of his strength. . . , 

April 9, > 7 8. 

... I am still 7 besides other work, working away at those songs to 
take to the printers to-morrow. They are pretty sure to take them as 
now they are so well known here. Whether they give me much for 
them is another question or indeed anything! But I hope so. I 
went to a musical entertainment yesterday evening at the mother 
of Brahms's other great friend and, in spite of a little cough, did a 
great deal of singing, till I was forcibly removed from the piano by 
Frau Brockhaus, who wouldn't allow me to do anything more. I 
got latish to bed and am dead tired to-day. The weather is so hor- 
rid it snows all day and yet is so warm that only about two inches 
remain on the ground, and the whole place is a perfect mash! Yes- 
terday, knowing how I rave about Brahms, the daughter, Frau von 
Bezold, sought out a visiting card of his and hid it under the card 
with my name on! When I found it, they hunted up a piece of 
narrow pink tape to match my ribbons, and tied it round my 
neck! . , . 


April, 1878. 

. . . Just imagine what a goose I am. I went to Breitkopf and 
Haertel the music publishers par excellence in the world. The 
nephew, who conducts the business, Dr. Hase, I know very well 
and he is quite one of the most charming men I ever met. But 


Impressions that Remained 

you know how unpleasant it is to do business with a personal 
friendl Well, he began by telling me that songs had as a rale a bad 
sale but that no composeress had ever succeeded., barring Frau 
Schumann and Fraulein Mendelssohn, whose songs had been pub- 
lished together with those of their husband and brother respec- 
tively. He told me that a certain Frau Lang had written some 
really very good songs, but they had no sale. I played him mine, 
many of which he had already heard me perform in various Leipzig 
houses, and he expressed himself very willing to take the risk and 
print them. But would you believe it, having listened to all he said 
about w r omen composers, and considering how difficult it is to bar- 
gain with an acquaintance, I asked no fee! Did you ever hear of 
such a donkey! I should have asked 2 ios., which would have dis- 
solved one of the dressmaker's bills! So if, Mother darling, after all 
I have to come down on you for that bill (which I still hope not 
to do!) please consider it the price of my modesty! . . . 

Sunday, April 7, 1878. 

... I think, Mother darling, Frau Dr. would be very pleased if 
you wrote her a letter thanking her for her goodness to me and 
mentioning her letting me come for a few days to her in the coun- 
try. Of course you would have written anyhow, but probably not 
till I came to England. If you wrote at once (very clearly!! but in 
English, of course!) she'd get it just before starting. She always 
takes such an interest in my home and you specially I can't 
talk to her too much about you all and my home-life. With most 
people one feels rather shy of "letting out" (as F P would say) 
on the subject. One always is afraid of boring them but I never 
feel that with her, as I know that the more I tell her, the better 
she is pleased. 

My newer friends, Baron von Herzogenberg and his fabulously 
beautiful wife (with a bad figure! the Tauchnitzes and Marie Gei- 
stinger are the only people in Leipzig with figures!) are very de- 
lightful. They hold very much aloof from Leipzig society partly 
because in both is a rooted dislike, almost amounting to a horror, 
of dilettantism. She is absurdly musical and though she doesn't 
compose much (only songs), is the first feminine musical genius 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

(bar Frau Schumann) that I have met. I suppose the fact that 
Joachim, Brahms, and Frau Schumann are their most intimate 
friends makes them so severe upon unthoroughness. In their pres- 
ence I feel like a worm! ... I mean because I write sonatas and 
string quartetts, and, goodness knows what all, when I can't do a 
proper canon or fugue (or indeed strict counterpoint very well). I 
have made gigantic progress, but not thorough progress. I have, in 
fact, made the tour of the world and don't know my own country 
thoroughly so to speak. . . . 


Passion Week, 1878. 

. . . The day before yesterday I made the acquaintance of a com- 
poser of Schumann's time, of whom Schumann prophesied almost 
as much as he did of Brahms. You see in the one case the prophecy 
came truer than in the other, for Kirchner never composed any- 
thing great, though his little things are beautiful. I used to play 
some of them. Fraulein Sitte will probably know his Album Blaet- 
ter and Acquarellen. He is exactly like Mr. Ewing! As his life is, to 
a certain extent, a failure, he is a very bitter, intensely sardonic 
man almost demoniacal. He spoke much of the industry of the 
English in the Conservatorium how nearly all the ladies com- 
posed! I You can imagine how pleasant this was for me! and that I 
wasn't much disposed to obey his command (for command it was) 
to play to him. When I had done, he simply growled out: Dimmer 
weiter! Sie duerfen componiren!" 12 People say this is fearfully 
much for Kirchner! After that he was most friendly and offered 
to see me home and goodness knows what! . . . 


End of April, 1878. 

. . I had such a glorious time at Dresden with dear Frau Doctor, 
and I should have stayed there till the middle of this week (when 
she returns) were it not for a concert given by the Bach Verein, 
to which, as you know, I belong and as the alti are weak and I 
can make a pretty good row in the chest notes now, back I came, 
upon the summons of the beautiful Frau von Herzogenberg. 
12 Gc on! You may compose! 


Impressions that Remained 

. . . And now I must tell you all about my adventures, looking 
up Julia Finn. 13 1 searched out the name in the address book, found 
it in a not very nice street in Dresden, and, obtaining leave of ab- 
sence from my hostess, sallied forth in search of a new cousin. I 
was shown into a drawing room, the decorations of which evidently 
aimed at English style (German drawing rooms are got up as Eng- 
lish parlours at the seaside) but were of a somewhat gaudy, cheap 
description. Thought I to myself, "Louie's sister has not Louie's 
taste" and awaited with anxiety the arrival of Cousin Julia. My dear 
Mother, imagine my feelings when a small, dingy, eminently "re- 
spectable" person entered and asked me what I wanted!! Having 
previously asked the servant if Mrs. Finn was English and having 
received an affirmative answer having also ascertained that there 
was but one Finn in the address book I could not doubt but this 
was my cousin, though she bore no resemblance to Louie!! I ad- 
vanced timidly and said, "I think you must be my cousin Julia." 
"Oh/ 7 answers the person, "I think yer must be inakin' a mistake. 
Yer mean my sister-in-law, Miss Durrant as was, 'oose no longer in 
the town lives in Blasewitz!" (a village about 3 miles from Dres- 
den). I was rather shocked at this apparition, who begged me to 
wait till her 'usband came in. Presently, an equally dingy but well- 
meaning individual in black came in and informed me that "Aunt 
Julia" had removed from Dresden 2 years ago and that if Fd like to 
see her he'd be happy enough to accompany me out by tramway. 
The good soul (who lectures in German in Dresden and of whom 
I hope people think as much as he does of himself) accompanied 
me to the village and led me to a small cottage, out of which comes 
a stout, not so very ugly lady, greets him with a kiss and Louie's 
voice to Vstli of a tone, and looks politely at me for information. 
I said, "I am Ethel Smyth," whereat she embraced me very warmly 
and said, "You dear child! Fm so glad to make your acquaintance," 
just as Louie would have said it. The brother-in-law said, "Well, 
Fm not wanted 'ere, so Fll say good-day," and we parted on the 
best of terms, and I think he is a capital old fellow, though shaky 
as to h ; s. 

She carried me off indoors, made me stay to lunch of course, and 

13 This was a first cousin of my mother who had eloped in her teens with 
her brother's tutor. 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

introduced me to her husband a dear little man, also shaky as to 
h's, but much "finer/ 7 as the Germans say, than his brother. I think 
I had never pictured anyone more correctly to myself than I pic- 
tured her. She is very stout, has lost her eyebrows in some fever, 
and has corked herself rather crooked ones otherwise no beauti- 
fication, and a nice fresh complexion. Fringe like a door mat, also 
over the ears, so the effect is most . . . festive! On the top, a bril- 
liant Paris bonnet, and a somewhat violent yellowish grey cape with 
ostrich feathers this when she accompanied me home; in the 
house an infuriated looking mob cap crowns the edifice of brown 
hair. She has one awful daughter as black as coal and very Jewish 
looking, with an unwholesome looking complexion, and one jolly 
little son of 9. Both talk English with a strong German accent and 
rather stiffly, and are, of course, at home in German. I can't tell 
you how hearty and jolly she was and how glad she seemed to see 
me. I also was so glad to meet with a relative like the people I 
know in England - not like the awful Leipzig English. Her voice 
and manner are so like Louie's that I had a queer home-ish feeling 
when talking to her that I have not had since I left England. 

I don't think for the whole 3 hours I was there we spoke of Ger- 
many or the present but entirely of the past, and all about you. 
She could not tire of telling me about you and the old times, and 
I can't tell you with what a feeling I listened. She is the first per- 
son I ever met, with whom I had time to talk and opportunity of 
talking about you when you were young, and she enjoyed her task 
of narrator as thoroughly as I did mine of listener. It was all about 
you at Rackheath and Scottow how beautiful you were how 
you sang as no one else, except, perhaps, the Lind how you were 
in all respects just her beau ideal (and everyone else's) of what a 
young lady should be of how you had such masses of adorers, and 
how your behaviour to them was just what it ought to have been! 
She said you used to have singing days, on which you sang up and 
down stairs and all over the house, and that she had (if all this is 
true you will know better than I, for romancing runs in the Stracey 
blood, doesn't it?) a great passion for you and used to come up to 
your room when you were dressing for dinner and fasten on your 
bracelets until one day, when she came upon you and Papa in a 
certain room of which she showed me the windows in a photo she 


Impressions that Re?named 

has of Scottow! That same night, she says, when she was helping 
you to adorn, she said, deeply wounded and jealous: "Really, Cousin 
Nina, I can't think how you can kiss that man with red hair/' 
whereat you boxed her ears and said, "How dared she speak so of 
your future husband!!!!!" She said you had such perfect manners 
and were so horrified (as indeed is to be expected) at some youth 
who, after asking you to take wine with him, shovelled up peas on 
his knife! She also related the tale of your saying, "My nose is like 
a torch!'' She spoke much of the trios sung by you, her Mother 
(about whose flute-like voice she raves I never knew Aunt Julia 
sang) and either Lady Robinson or Mrs. Bumey-Petre. . . . Again, 
I say, the pleasure it was to me hearing all this is absolutely inex- 
pressible, so much so that I don't care to tell you about Dresden 
and the glorious (gaudy) new Theatre, and the splendid perform- 
ance of Schiller's "Wilhelm Tell/' (The Picture Gallery was shut 
for cleaning up! Such a sell!) If I go again at Whitsuntide I'm of 
course to look her up. She told me to tell you she was delighted to 
see me, and that I was exactly like my father, only your eyes to a 
T! Whereat I demur, first of all my eyes are not half so good as 
my Mother's, and, secondly, they are quite a different sort of eye! 
Yours are oval mine somewhat round! They all accompanied me 
in the ferry across the Elbe (Blasewitz is opposite Loschwitz the 
village the "Berg" is in) , and then walked with me till we got to the 
Berg. I was awfully pleased with her and very curious to hear what 
you say of her as she was in days gone by. She seemed rather hurt 
at never having heard of you till last year, but said she supposed 
that comes of living at Dresden. . . . 


[NOTE. This letter was written by and dictated to LfsZ, who was nurs- 
ing me. Her own remarks are in italics. E. S.] 

May 19, 1878. 

My darling Mother, Don't be alarmed at seeing a strange hand- 
writing I'm in bed, but not sick "unto death," my nerves have 
been rather knocked up for some time and now my unhappy 
heart has to bear the brunt of it. I have been sent to bed in order 
to reduce the palpitation and here may have to stay for a day or 
two longer, in all about a week. Don't think, Mother darling, that 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

I have been left entirely on my own hook. I have been nursed dur- 
ing this week as well as I ever was in my life, both night and day, 
but as the instrument of my recovery happens to be writing this 
for me, I will tell you all about it when I can write to you myself. 
The poor amanuensis is suffering severely from writing the accom- 
panying! And now, please Mother, listen attentively to what's 
coming. . . . 

[N.B. Here follows a long account of my illness and of the re- 
strictions to be observed in England} 

Well, that's about all. It only remains to tell you not to be anx- 
ious about me. You'll find me looking as well as ever, and, alas, as 
inclined to gather the rosebuds while I may as of yore. I am fairly 
on the road to recovery and will get up to-morrow. 

Ever your devoted child, 


Amanuensis cannot help saying that she enjoyed nursing your 
dear, dear child so very much; also she must assure you that you 
have not the least occasion more to be discomforted about EtheL 

[P.S. privately added by rne,] 

Mother darling, The person who has written my letter to you 
and nursed me all through this illness more like a mother than 
anyone else is Frau von Herzogenberg. What she has been to me 
I can't tell you and I have known her hardly three months. It's 
queer that Frau Dr. isn't nursing me but she is so good about 
it. I daren't write more, it's forbidden me. I can't now tell you 
all she's done for mel! 

May 27, 1878, 

... At last I am up and able to write to you with my own hand, 
but just fancy, with pauses about every three minutes, as writing 
brings on the attacks more than anything almost. ... I have at 
last seen the absolute necessity of acquiescing in the matter of my 
modus Vivendi during the holidays and have signed a paper of rules 
the doctor prescribes for me. Imagine no lawn tennis, no riding, 
no dancing, nothing!! This to me, who have all this year been look- 
ing forward to plunging with renewed vigour into the old life for a 


Impressions that Remained 

little bit, and have been glorying in the feeling that I could face 
the holly hedge on the green, or an adversary at lawn tennis with- 
out fear that after I had been a week in home air the old Adam 
would be fully re-established in me! Still it is true that is nothing 
against a life-time and I know it must be! ... 

I am much disgusted that I shall have to hurry over an important 
matter, i.e. 7 choosing the souvenirs of Leipzig for the folks at home. 
I meant to have spent a whole month in looking about, and now 
probably the matter must be got over in a day or two. Such is life. 
Also I meant to have spent the fortnight previous to my departure 
in practising up various of my perfectly unplayable compositions to 
(I hope!) delight the maternal ear. Instead of which I am not al- 
lowed to touch a piano, and as I can't help it when it stands there, 
the Doctor says better send it away!! So, Mother darling, you must 
put up with them as they are in rough and when you hear 
them listen to the composition, not the performance of the same! 
I can't realise that I shall see you all again so soon. It is almost too 
good to be true, that is to say if it comes off. Fancy if Mary is still 
there, which I hope she will be! . . . 


Friday Night, June 7, 1878, 

... I will send on your note to Frau v. H., who is far away in 
Bohemia and will be so glad to have it. She was always saying 
specially while cooking something for me "What fun it would be 
if your Mother were to walk in suddenly, except that I fear I should 
not be here in her place then!" which she certainly would not have 

. . . Oh! Mother I hope the rules may be a little relaxed. But 
the worst of it is I have promised my dear German Doctor on my 
word of honour, signed a paper to that effect which I must show 
you when I get home, and unless he absolves me I fear I can't re- 
lax! But we will see and I will hope on. Otherwise I often suddenly 
burst out into vehement howling at the bare idea of it, as I know 
my year's devotion to the Muses has not affected my love for field 
sports, to which I know I have just as much natural bent as to 
music. Ill jump over the lawn tennis net for Captain S *s benefit 
once more before I leave home again! 


Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

... Do tell Miss Sitte that when I am in England I shall be so 
glad to have her to remind me of dear, dear Germany, and I hope 
she will let me talk German with her sometimes, that I may not 
quite forget it when there, though I know what a trial it is to have 
foreigners talking one's own language with one, when one is perfect 
mistress of the language of the country one is in. Though not per- 
fect mistress of German by any means I can of course talk it as fast 
as I like, and nothing annoys me so intensely as when people insist 
upon talking bad English with me in Germany. Still perhaps Frl. 
Sitte will talk German with me out of good-nature. 


From Elisabeth von Herzogenberg ("Lw/") 

[NOTE. These early letters of Lisl's are given mainly to show the key 
in 'which our friendship started; what I may call the real letters, written 
when we came to know each other thoroughly, will be found later. As 
she often lapses into English I put "in English" when I am transcribing, 
and "in German" when translating. She once said she knew her English 
style was a blend of baby-language and Dr. Johnson, and often she uses 
it with comic intention; at other times the comic effect is involuntary.] 

Schloss Wernsdorf, Bohemia: May 27, 1878. 
(In German) My dear, dear Ethel, I hope you have got my two 
greetings, one written in Leipzig, another from Aussee, so that you 
hadn't to wait as long as you expected for a line from me. I cannot 
forgive myself for causing you so much agitation the last day; any 
good I may have done seems to me nullified by this last action! 
But I know you won't agree, and that your loving heart magnifies 
what I did for you and underestimates the delight it was to me do- 
ing it. Surely one would have no heart in one's bosom were it not 
among the intensest of pleasures to be able to help someone dear to 
you; to begin with, how soothing to one's vanity to find oneself so 
important, so longed for! . . . 

Ethel, I won't make myself out worse than I am, but really the 
last fourteen days were such a delight, gave me so much pleasure, 
that I often felt quite dishonourable in calmly pocketing, as if I der 


Impressions that Remained 

served them, the thanks that poured so generously from your mouth. 
Don't go on thanking me but let us both thank Fate that meant so 
well by us on that memorable birthday of Dr. Paul's! I confess I do 
not look upon it as a misfortune that you became so ill, that is to 
say that you had this acute attack; firstly because I don't think you 
would otherwise have been as careful as you will be now, secondly 
because I doubt if we should ever have got where we are now but 
for those fourteen days. 

(In English] After to-morrow I hope to receive the first bulletin, 
and perhaps more and dearer to me the first lines from your 
own little hand. My darling, did the horrid men come already to 
take away the piano? and are you growing daily pale and paler from 
obligatory Askese? 14 And do you very much long after all you have 
not, poor little ill-treated, though tenderly loved child? And what 
does Dr. Langbein say about the term of your departure, and will 
Miss Nancy be sure to wait till you can start safely without an eti- 
quette sticking on your back bearing the word "fragile"? Write to 
me soon, dearest! 

I am not quite here yet. I never feel comfortable at first; I can't 
get accustomed to Heinrich's sister so unlike to him, the Graces 
not having attended her cradle; without the touch of tenderness 
without which it is so difficult to me to think of a woman. Good, 
courageous, upright, and all that, but very matter of fact. I like 
the children and the 170 sheep here best, also a large good New- 
foundland dog with quite a way to remind one of some of Long- 
fellow's nice little poems Open Window and that sort He has 
such a wonderful condescending way of looking on the children 
when they play with him. Of course he feels his superiority. They 
have a bird here in a cage hanging in a tree in the garden think 
what a cruelty! that reminds me of a certain poor little Eu- 
phorion 15 when i in a short time it will be at home, looking on with 
folded arms when the others play lawn tennis! I really do feel how 
cruel we are, Langbein and I, and yet how necessary our cruelty is. 

Good-bye and my blessing to you, my darling. I won't write 
again till I have a letter from you. My love to Miss Nancy; it is 

14 Self-denial 

is Child of Faust and Helen of Troy (in Part II of Goethe's Faust), who 
came to grief through wilfulness and daring: a nickname of Lisl's for myself. 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

such a comfort to me to know you are to journey together. Tell her 
how I confide In her. Take care of my little Ethel for the sake of 
your mother. 


P.S. I don't want B to know yet that we call each other 
"du"; yet how should she unless you leave letters about? And I even 
ask myself if it is not a pity for others to know, and perhaps make 
inward remarks or smile oh! or to ask if one . . . but in fact 
what do I care? I have forgotten how to call Ethel "Sie" I 

May 29, 1878. 

(In English] Here is my song. Now don't be thinking I do not 
know that the doubled leading-note on the second page, first bar 
("fallt, ihr diirren Blatter") is, in fact, false and nasty, and an un- 
clean matter altogether unworthy the wife of Aloysius; 16 but in 
spite of that I can't help finding it expressive, and that it gives the 
touch of a certain harshness that I want there; for which reason 
Aloysius has graciously permitted it as what the Catholics call a 
"lassige Siindel!" 17 Poor little song it appears to me, when I see it 
black on white, so poor and meagre and childish! and still I have 
a kind of tenderness for it; also because I played it to my husband 
long before he was my husband, in March '67, when I saw him for 
the last time before the time from which I began a new reckoning. 
And he wanted a copy of it, which of course I never gave him, laced 
up in the Spanish boots of conventional holding-back as poor Lisl 
was at that time! There my darling deal kindly with it this is 
all I can do for my child to-day. Henry sends you his love, a special 
message. He likes you very much. . . . My Aunt Wiillerstorf is a 
dear aunt but oh! such an exciteable one. How can people be so un- 
calm? . . . But I love her dearly. . . . 


May 31, 1878. 

(In German) ... I must just tell you an absurd dream I had, 
which however will show you where my thoughts are at night. I was 

16 A nickname she gave her husband. 

17 Venial sin. 


Impressions that Remained 

spending the evening with the Rontgens, but Johanna was not there, 
and I said to myself: "Of course she's looking after Ethel." We were 
to make music and I was to play 2nd violin in a Beethoven quartet 
(to which apparently I was quite accustomed) but they gave me a 
shockingly written MS. part all wrong too so that presently 
Papa Rontgen lost patience and stopped. I apologized profusely but 
said the part was really disgraceful, and also nearly illegible, owing 
to the masses of blotting-sand on it which made it look like a cutlet 
fried in bread-crumbs. (Observe this dreadful irruption of cooking 
into music picture of my unfortunate Sphinx-nature!) There- 
upon Johanna came in and I rushed at her and asked after Ethel. 
"Ethel is not at all well and must probably stay in bed tomorrow 
too." And I: "How is that? What have you been up to?" Then 
Johanna drew forth a long list with all her crimes written on it, and 
confessed that the worst one was meeting Aunt Wullerstorf in 
the street and taking her to see Ethel. "What!" I cried out, "that 
excitable aunt? that aunt who never, never is allowed to go near a 
sick person? I must go to Ethel at once" and I rushed away in 
terrible agitation, and woke up still quite upset by the dream. Dear 
good Johanna must not be angry with me! it is all because she was 
so remorseful one day for having gone to see you in the Salomon- 
strasse at a time when visitors were forbidden! . . . 


June 2, 1878. 

(In German} . . . Don't write long letters; if s tad for you and 
I can't write at length myself here. The minuet form is best suited 
to us just now ist Part: 16 bars; 2nd Part: 16 bars; a little Trio; 
repeat the Minuet and add a nice little Coda for the special edifica- 
tion of 



June 9, 1878. 

(In German) . . . Don't feel like that about returning to Eng- 
land. In a way I myself feel as if we were "drifting farther and 
farther from each other," but that cannot change the fact that we 
love each other, that I "had you" when I was eleven, and shall have 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

you till I'm eighty and that's such a good feeling! . . . My 
child, I wonder sometimes at the different ways Fate spins the 
thread which binds people together how it often takes years to 
enter into possession, and how in our case something has grown 
between us that tells me we belong together, inseparably! ... To 
think how I hung back at first! I didn't know you and am in princi- 
ple against new friendships; then too there was a feeling of un- 
faithfulness towards other people whom I knew better than you. 
I thought I was merely attracted by little ways that appealed to me, 
and said to myself: "You must look closely and weigh well." . . . 
And now, there you are, little tree, grown into my heart with such 
deep roots that nothing can ever tear them out! And I gladly own 
to myself that things are thus, because I have studied you so closely 
and believe I know you so thoroughly! ... (In English) Yes, I 
have been photographed by the best man in Vienna, and I think in 
all four positions Fll have a big nose, for the atelier was hot which 
always produces big noses. But you should not be photographed 
again. I will not have you become a waister or do you say spend- 
thrift? (have I hit the word now?) and would hold you a sermon 
but that I feel very week and touched and melting away like butter 
in the sun. I am frightened of the temptations at your home no 
riding, no tennis, a Pilgrim's Progress indeed and anxious to hear 
how you pass through the tests, poor little Pamina, quite alone 
without a Tamino to help you only the Magic Flute of your af- 
fection for me, and Music, that dear consoler, as sole support! I 
don't like your beginning by those races! Of course your fanatic pas- 
sion for horses must have the effect to excite you when you look on 
at such racings, that in themselves are so exciting; and really it isn't 
necessary, now is it? You can show off your new little hat (for two 
pounds) when you make your calls of arrival (? Antritts-Visiten I 
mean) . Darling don't be angry, I know you don't care about all that 
stuff, and prefer sitting at home, since you cannot play tennis, at 
your writing table and your piano, but the kind mother will of 
course try to make show of her daughter, and in this respect you 
will, I believe, have the hardest battles to fight. . . . 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

CHAPTER XXII. Summer 1878 

JLHE JOURNEY to England via Rotterdam and Harwich, punctu- 
ated by postcards and telegrams to and from Lisl at every available 
stage, is chiefly memorable as the most appalling of all my many 
Channel crossings. Nancy and I shared a cabin, and her sufferings 
were terrific; but just when I was beginning to reflect with alarm 
that people have been known to die under these circumstances, a 
calm voice below me remarked: "I think the horrors of seasickness 
are much exaggerated." My father met us at Harwich, and we 
started for our respective homes by a line built apparently on the 
switch-back principle my first experience of this detestable effect 
of a rough sea voyage. 

What a wonderful return home it was! Invalid and incipient 
"Phoenix/' as Mother persisted in calling me sometimes, I was 
spoiled to my heart's content, the children, whom I called my 
white slaves, fetching and carrying for me, and even lacing up my 
boots. The glamour of home, which even at Leipzig had never 
paled, seemed positively dazzling; how well I remember the flavour 
of it all the incredible youth and jollity of the young ones, the 
lovingness of Mother, the beloved dogs and horses! I had not ex- 
pected much cordiality from my father towards an unrepentant 
and apparently justified rebel, but the fact that my allowance had 
not been exceeded by one penny, together with the less important 
one of countless testimonials to my seriousness of purpose, went a 
long way, and I found the life I had chosen was an accepted fact. 

But presently, when the novelty wore off, I began to review the 
situation with dismay. My Leipzig doctor had drawn up a docu- 
ment which might have been headed by the word dear among all 
others to the German heart, "Verboten" for it was a list of for- 
bidden joys that included, with the exception of work (which was 
permitted in moderation), all the things I loved best, namely ten- 
nis, riding, and dancing. I had shed what seemed to Lisl incon- 
ceivably childish tears over this document, but solemnly signed it, 
as did she and Dr. Langbein. Hardly had I been ten days at home, 
however, when all the worst symptoms disappeared by magic, and 


1878] Germany and T^wo Winters in Italy 

I began to lack against the pricks. The matter was complicated 
by a rather comic infusion of jealousy. No one ever rejoiced at heart 
more unselfishly than my mother at any kindness shown to her chil- 
dren, and for Lid's love and care of me (as previously for Frau 
Doctor's) she was deeply and touchingly grateful. Nevertheless 
when it came to my life at home being regulated by far-off strangers, 
when her wondering ears heard me refusing even to handle a rac- 
quet for fear of temptation, although it was plain to sensible Eng- 
lish judgment that there was no longer any reason why I should not 
play, this was more than her philosophy could bear; and I cannot 
help thinking that when she suggested I should see Sir William 
Jenner and be formally released from my promises, her motives 
may have been more complex than appeared. 

There was a very funny incident a week or two later, when, just 
to see if my eye was still in, and standing firmly rooted to one spot, 
I made my sisters serve to me, my mother, unknown to us, watching 
the proceedings from her bedroom window. At luncheon she 
remarked with obvious satisfaction: "I see you have begun tennis 
again in spite of Frau von Herzogenberg," whereupon I angrily de- 
clared it was not so, and that taking a serve or two was not playing 
tennis to which she rejoined that it seemed to her uncommonly 
like it. In short there was such a scene that, much to my surprise, 
Papa suddenly broke in with: "You don't understand the game; 
she says she was not playing and there's an end of it." And as usual 
when he intervened she gave in at once. Eventually, in spite of im- 
passioned remonstrance from LisI, including the quotation of 
many a slighting remark I had rashly made at Leipzig about Eng- 
lish doctors, all embargoes were removed, and the day came when 
I joyfully informed her, whom the news left more than indifferent, 
that my game was as good as ever, in fact better. 

To the end I never succeeded in making her grasp what games 
and sport mean to people of our race; that side of life seemed to her 
trivial, or at least unworthy the passionate interest of a budding 
artist. When I had told her in my sick-room that the family were 
requested never to mention hunting in their letters, because the 
very word drove me wild with longing, I remember her amazed 
look as she said: "My dear child, you must surely be mad!" And 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

though she eventually learned to accept these aberrations with phi- 
losophy, they belonged in the large category of "things in you I shall 
never understand/ 7 

That summer a ridiculous sequel to one of my Leipzig adventures 
took place. When I had parted some months before on terms of 
grateful but strictly platonic affection from the kind young man 
who had conducted the sale of "grandeurs" in the famous libel 
case, we had settled that he should come and see me in my own 
home, which he did. But what was my astonishment when, in the 
course of a ride together, it became clear that he had construed this 
invitation into an encouragement to persevere in his suit! I don't 
think I have ever been more angry; from the first I had seen he was 
in earnest, and whoever I had flirted with it certainly was not with 
him; consequently my diatribes concerning male fatuousness and 
vanity none the less stunning for being delivered over my shoul- 
der at full gallop seemed to me amply justified. He was deeply 
hurt, and we parted with stiffness on both sides. 

I did a certain amount of what I regret to say was referred to in 
letters to Lisl as "that horrid counterpoint," and knew she was 
similarly employed. But under what ideal circumstances! En- 
sconced peacefully in a mountain district, with her Aloysius, as we 
called him, at her elbow (Aloysius being a Jesuit noble of the Mid- 
dle Ages who forsook the world for higher things and was eventu- 
ally canonized), naturally she made rapid progress; whereas the 
exercises I sent from time to time, including those on the bird- 
call I quoted, were far from satisfactory and few in number, the 
blame of course being laid by both of them on balls, tennis, and 
general frivolity. One letter of remonstrance apparently made me 
"howl/ ? and altogether caused such despair that Aloysius himself 
felt moved to write and administer consolation. But our whole early 
correspondence testifies to the grave, beneficent influence exercised 
by Lisl. 1 

On one thing I had set my heart, to give my mother one great 

musical pleasure, and eventually decided on a home production of 

the Liebeslieder Walzer. I beat up in the neighbourhood and at 

Aldershot four people with ears, voices, and feelings into whom it 

1 Appendix III, pp. 269 et seq., Nos. 2, 7, 12 et seq. 


1878] Germany and T*wo Winters in Italy 

was possible to drum the vocal parts, and a really musical Russian 
woman to help in the piano-duet accompaniment. It was like teach- 
ing parrots, but the result was an excellent performance in Mrs. 
Longman's opinion as good as anything you could hear in London, 
and it may be remembered that she was considered an authority. 
Later on I went to stay with Alice and Mary, and actually pulled 
off the same feat in Edinburgh with new performers and equal suc- 

Lisl, who was seeing a good deal of Brahms just then, told him 
all about this propaganda work of mine and all about me, which 
of course filled me with mingled terror and delight. She informed 
me too that he was in his best mood "treats me so kindly, as a 
dear, big Newfoundland dog treats a little King Charles/' and since 
I may have uncomplimentary things to say about Brahms by and 
by, it will be a pleasure to quote later on some very warm tributes 
she pays him, to which I heartily subscribe. 2 She generally used 
English in the lighter parts of her letters, German in the others,, 
and aware of my own recklessness as to leaving correspondence 
about, as also of my mother's jealousy, I had begged her to "tell 
me" in English and "speak to me" in German. I even went farther* 
By way of discouraging requests to let Mother see one of my friend's 
letters I once threw a wholly German one on to her lap, saying: 
"Do read this, it's so amusing/ 7 As I expected, the calligraphy de- 
feated her, and I was asked to read it aloud instead, which I did 
with omissions. 

Meanwhile, as the summer went on, the old feeling of the stale- 
ness and pointlessness of home life came back, and with it a furious 
longing for Leipzig and my new friends, to cheat which I warmed 
up a few former enthusiasms . . . (Lisl's first intimation of what 
was to be a perennial subject of dispute between us, my insatiable 
appetite for humanity) . About this time, too, the aftermath of en- 
larging Frimhurst was beginning to be reaped. My father an- 
nounced that we had for some time been exceeding our income, 
but it seemed impossible to work up zeal for a whole-hearted 
scheme of retrenchment. This theme was the source of constant 
and fruitless sparring, and of course the old friction between me 
2 Appendix, p. 273. 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

and my mother began again, with the very natural element of sore- 
ness as to foreign influence thrown in. 

Again, though I was no longer exactly a black sheep in my fa- 
ther's eyes, he seemed to me wilfully antagonistic, and I wrote 
miserably to Lisl that I was becoming wicked at home hard and 
rebellious; that I never should learn self-control and that there was 
"a perfect devil in my heart that sleeps only at Leipzig." In fact I 
could hardly await the end of the holidays, particularly as I had 
finished a bit of work that I felt certain would please Aloysius better 
than my counterpoint, namely Variations on an Original Theme? 
one of the variations being inspired by, and named after, the filly 
I had broken. Mercifully, as in the old days, the friction between 
my mother and me was presently forgotten in her perfect apprecia- 
tion of this early effort and my consequent delight in the depth of 
her musical instinct, I remember flinging my arms round her and 
saying: "You are more musical than all my friends put together," 
which in a sense was perfectly true. Thus, at the end of September, 
in a glow of restored affection and harmony, I kft for Germany, 
this time being allowed without remonstrance to travel under my 
own wing. 

CHAPTER XXIIL Autumn and Winter 1878 


JL/traiNG the previous winter I had met one of Brahins's oldest 
friends, a deeply musical and most unprofessorial Saxon named 
Engelmann, who nevertheless held a professorship at the Univer- 
sity of Utrecht, and whose wife, originally a professional pianiste, 
was said to be one of the finest artists alive. Both of them were old 
friends, too, of the Herzogenbergs, and as he had suggested my com- 
ing to see them on my way back to Leipzig I did so, and spent an 
enchanting week, sight-seeing and music-making. 

Off the music stool my hostess was a pleasant, childlike, not very 
interesting little person, who seemed to spend most of her time 
laughing at nothing in particular; at the piano the whole woman 


1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

changed, and you were in presence of a grave, inspired, passion- 
wrought pythoness. Her husband was an admirable cellist, and in 
that house I heard, among other things, the Brahms piano quartets, 
the Quintet, and the Horn Trio as I shall never hear them again. 
We were quite among ourselves, except for Julius Rontgen, who 
came from Amsterdam to see me, and incidentally played viola. 
In a couple of days Frau Engelmann knew my Variations by heart, 
and I learned what one's compositions can become in the hands of 
a great artist. 

This was my first visit to Holland; I was shown many beautiful 
things, among them the desolate Dead Towns on the Zuider Zee r 
where strange, unfriendly fishermen in fantastic costumes, with 
long, straight, coal-black locks hanging into their eyes, squat all day 
in the streets, glaring hatred at intrusive strangers. I remember too 
how we scorned a very smart Amsterdam bankeress, who strutted 
about the deck of the steamer in brown boots, the first any of us 
had seen. We thought them ridiculous and unpleasantly auffal* 
lend* and so apparently did the other people on the boat. 

Two days later I was back in Leipzig. Driving straight to the 
Humboldtstrasse, where the Herzogenbergs lived, I appeared unex- 
pectedly in their flat just as they had sat down to breakfast, and 
noticed that Lisl turned ashen the effect, as I then learned, of 
any surprise, whether pleasant or the reverse. I remember that the 
spectre of her dread infirmity rose before me for a moment, to van- 
ish in the three-part counterpoint of our Wiedersehen. They over- 
whelmed me with congratulations on my stalwart, healthful, sun- 
browned appearance, for of course they had never seen me in my 
normal country-life condition and found me almost unrecognizable. 
My toilette had been performed in the train, my luggage left at the 
station, and under my arm was a parcel, the contents of which 
would, I hoped, banish all recollection of contrapuntal failures. And 
so it turned out; the Variations pleased them as much as they had 
the Engelmanns, and far from being taken tragically, as I had half 
expected, the "Filly" variation was considered one of the best of the 
bunch. Then a new Brahms motet, of which she had spoken in a 
letter, 2 was played to me, followed by some new work of Heinrich's, 

1 Conspicuous. 2 See p. 273. 


Impressions that Remained [1878 

till, about half an hour before the midday meal, Lisl disappeared 
to see to something in the kitchen, while he examined and discussed 
the Variations in detail. And when, after one of the admirably 
cooked meals which were the secret pride of that little household, 
we arrived at the sweet stage, what did I see but the Susse Speise 
I love best in the world, the dish which to this day I cannot per- 
ceive advancing in my direction or mentioned on a menu without 
emotion . . . meringues called at Frimhurst and throughout 
English kitchens "marrangs"! I had once written from home that 
whatever the differences between my mother and myself, we were 
of one mind on that subject, and Lisl had determined to show me 
what the hands that had just been delicately disentangling and re- 
conibining the ingredients of a motet in I forget how many parts 
could do with eggs and sugar for the meringues were her handi- 
work, cases and all. Not too sweet, not too sticky (which however 
is better than too powdery), the cream neither over-solid nor yet 
whipped into fluff in a word, and without hyperbole, master- 
pieces! . . . 

After dinner, for Germans dined then at midday, I collected my 
luggage, and Lisl and I drove off to the Salomonstrasse. The old 
house was transmogrified; the stairs had been mended, the walls re- 
papered, and the whole place looked fresher and cleaner than one 
would have believed possible. The windows of my new rooms faced 
south-west, looking over fruit-trees and acacias, and I suppose never 
was young musician more ideally and cheaply lodged. By the next 
day I had rigged up a grand trophy, consisting of racquets, skates, 
fox-brushes, a hunting-crop, and my long boot-hooks, which roused 
the admiration of my landlady's children a well-brought-up set of 
youngsters this time, who all started a discreet Schwdrmerei for 
me. Fran Merseburger, their mother, was a jolly, buxom, pleasant- 
faced woman, of about thirty-five, with a dried-up, immensely polite 
little husband anywhere between fifty-five and seventy. He was a 
publisher and bookseller on a very small scale; the strong line of the 
firm was school books, and gaudily got-up little volumes of very 
minor lyrics which reminded me of my great-uncle the Professor's 
effusions. He gave me one or two of these in case I should feel 
tempted to set extracts to music, and I then wondered, as always, 
how stuff on that level manages to get into print at all. The only 


1878] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

other lodger was a big, shy man of about forty with a huge fair beard 
and spectacles. He had a room on the ground-floor, mine being on 
the second, and contrived by deft dartings in and out of the house, 
and cautious tactics in passages, to be as good as invisible. I noticed 
that Frau Merseburger was rather embarrassed and apologetic about 
this lodger, why I could not imagine, but as she married him when 
old Merseburger died a few years later, I have since hazarded a 

As I said, I supped in my own room, but on a few grand occasions, 
Herr Merseburger's birthday and so on, I was invited down below, 
the other lodger occasionally being present too. Once we were fa- 
voured with the company of a nephew of my landlord's, stoker 
or something of the sort on an ocean tramp, who was reported to 
have cruised a good deal in Chinese waters, on the strength of which 
he gave us an exhibition of Chinese singing and dancing a very 
odd performance that worked his uncle up into a frenzy of senile 
delight. After a glass or two of sweet champagne on the top of beer 
and Rhine wine, the old gentleman used invariably to do two things 
first quote Goethe, and then, a little later on, begin pinching his 
wife: She would laugh, get very red, and say: "Aber Mdnnchenl 
. . . benimm dich dock!" ("but, little husband! . . . behave thy- 
self 7 ); meanwhile the lodger sat unmoved, and Frau Merseburger^ 
deprecating glances and giggles were addressed not to him but to 
me. It was a very harmless display, but next morning there would 
be a touch of apology in the old man's polite hopes that the feast 
had agreed with me (for this is the form such compliments take in 
Germany) and I imagined a curtain lecture had been administered. 
Such was the family on whom the comfort of my daily life depended, 
and who, I may add, took any amount of trouble to ensure it. Not 
only for this reason, but for others which can be imagined after read- 
ing the above, I never think of the Merseburgers without a little 
gush of friendliness and amusement. 

From now onwards I became, and remained for seven years, a 
semi-detached member of the Herzogenberg family; wherever they 
were bidden I was bidden too; not a day passed but that one or 
other of my meals was taken with them; and though like horses I 
have always preferred getting back for the night to my own stable, 

Impressions that Remained [1878 

the little spare room, stocked for my needs, was always ready when 
required. And after I was in bed Lisl would come in, comb and brush 
in hand ? her hair streaming over a white dressing-gown "all in 
white and gold 77 as I put it in my youthful enthusiasm to make 
sure I had every tiling I needed. Daily I became more conscious of 
the fineness and strength of her personality qualities which those 
who care to read such letters of hers as I give will, I think, feel, not- 
withstanding the inadequacies of translation. 

But on one point I want to lay special stress, because in the years 
to come, when it militated so terribly against me, I tried to remem- 
ber it had once been my chief delight; I mean a certain strong sim- 
plicity of soul that reminded me of the Elgin marbles, something at 
once womanly and incorruptible that suggested possible limitations 
but had a subtle majesty of which not even the greatest degree of 
intimacy dulled my perception. Witchery, an un-Greek element 
perhaps, was supposed to be her chief characteristic, and certainly 
her dear lovely person carried out that idea more than the other. 
Nevertheless had the Venus of Milo been a mortal, I think the large, 
quiet motions of her spirit would have been like Lisl's, except for 
two traits that may have been lacking in the goddess: a curious most 
touching humility, lurking, unnoticed by most people, at the bottom 
of her soul, and a lovingness that had the sweetness of ripe, perfect 
fruit, and which no one but her husband and I knew in its fullness. 
When I add that Herzogenberg was on far too big lines to begrudge 
her a semblance of what nature had withheld or me the blessing 
of her tender mothering love it will be allowed that the founda- 
tion of our friendship seemed well and truly laid. 

In musical matters Lisl and I saw absolutely eye to eye, and it 
was a strange intoxicating thing to realize that in moments of musi- 
cal ecstasy the heart of the being on earth you loved best was so 
absolutely at one with yours that it might have been the same heart. 
I think I was always more critical than either of them as regards 
weak spots in Brahms, or even the older classics, and was never able, 
as they were, to admire every single page Bach ever wrote; but 
on the summits we met. No doubt, too, the catholicity of taste I 
acquired in after life would have shocked them, but that day had not 
yet dawned. Meanwhile Lisl and I plodded away at our counterpoint 
in friendly rivalry, and used sometimes to wonder whether Brahms, 


1878-79] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
given a cantus firmus to work in four parts, would turn out any- 
thing so very much better than our productions. Herzogenberg was 
a splendid teacher, but though my industry and zeal left nothing 
to be desired, quite the reverse, he told me 1 wasn't really a good 
pupil which I suppose any master would say of a beginner who 
always claims to know best! 

I won't speak of a very thrilling unforgettable event, Frau Schu- 
mann's Jubilee, which took place that winter, nor of my riding 
adventures, including the most fantastic hunt I ever took part in, 
because these events are described elsewhere. 3 Of course I spent 
Christmas with the Herzogenbergs, and the table round my little 
tree was paved with miniature scores of Beethoven quartets. By and 
by, borne along by Papa Rontgen's teaching enthusiasm, and despite 
hands ill adapted to the instrument, I began learning the violin, and 
eventually became equal to taking second violin in easy quartets. 
The lessons were arranged to include the excellent sit-down Rontgen 
tea blessed cry of his Dutch blood and after tea he taught me 
chess. I got so passionately attached to the game, though a very 
poor player, that eventually it had to be given up, otherwise I should 
have spent my life doing nothing else. 


in 1879, I think some time in January, Brahms came to 
Leipzig to conduct his Violin Concerto played of course by 
Joachim, who had just been introducing it at Amsterdam, and was 
much upset at having to tune down his ears again to normal pitch, 
after having learned, as he said, to play it apparently in F J major in 
Holland a hard f eat! I understood then why pitch always has a 
tendency to rise, for, wedded as Joachim was to orthodoxy in all 
things, I nevertheless caught a few remarks about "increased bril- 

3 Appendix III, p. 286, Nos. i and 2; p. 288, No. 3. 

Impressions that Remained [1879 

liancy," and so on. That Concerto, which has never been among my 
favourite Brahms works, may for aught I know be child's play to 
students nowadays; at that time however the technique was un- 
familiar and not considered favourable to the instrument. Wags 
called it "Concerto against (instead of for) the Violin." But I fancy 
my musical sensibility was blurred in the wild excitement of at last 
getting to know the great man himself. During the following years 
I saw a good deal of him, on and off, and here follows the summing- 
up of my impressions for what they are worth. 

Some people, I believe, have youthful enthusiasms, even in their 
own branch of art, that wane as years go on, but I can remember no 
musical recantations. A favourable judgment seems to me to imply 
a satisfied need; you may have many needs, but why should one 
interfere with the other? Why, when you come to know and ad- 
mire, say, Anatole France, should you delight less in someone at the 
opposite pole, for instance Dickens? From the very first I had wor- 
shipped Brahms's music, as I do some of it now; hence was pre- 
disposed to admire the man. But without exactly disliking him, his 
personality neither impressed nor attracted me, and I never could 
understand why the faithful had such an exalted opinion of his 
intellect. He was rather taciturn and jerky as a rale, and notoriously 
difficult to carry on a conversation with, but after meals his mind 
and tongue unstiffened; and then, under the stimulus of countless 
cups of very strong black coffee, he was ready to discuss literature, 
art, politics, morals, or anything under the sun. On such occasions, 
though he never said anything stupid, I cannot recall hearing him 
say anything very striking, and when his latest pronouncement on 
Bismarck, poetry, or even music was ecstatically handed round, it 
generally seemed to me what anyone might have said. 

Once only do I remember his taking an exceptional line. A por- 
trait of the old Kaiser by Lenbach, recently exhibited at the Mu- 
seum, had aroused such a storm of indignation that it was withdrawn, 
and I believe ended by being verboten as far as public galleries 
were concerned. The reason was that whereas all other portraits of 
Wilhelm I represented a martial-looking veteran of about sixty, of 
whom the press stated that he swung himself on to his horse without 
the aid of a mounting-block, Lenbach had painted a very tired old 
man of eighty-four, with pale, flabby cheeks, and sunken, lack-lustre 


1879] Germany and Two Winters In Italy 

eyes in short, the fine old wreck he was, of whom it was whispered 
that, as a matter of fact, he had to be lifted on to his horse in the 
recesses of the stable yard in order to make his daily appearance in 
the Thiergarten. The picture was infinitely pathetic and even beau- 
tiful; so, it seemed to me, was the idea of the old warrior determined 
to sally forth as long as he could sit on a horse's back, no matter how 
he got there. But the people who manufacture public opinion in 
Germany saw in this record of human decay something detrimental 
to monarchical prestige, some going so far as to declare the picture 
should be publicly destroyed and the painter arraigned for Use- 
majeste in short, the incident opened one's eyes to the gulf that 
lies between German and Anglo-Saxon mentality. There was a mi- 
nority of another way of thinking, but these kept pretty quiet, and 
I was delighted to find that Brahms, who always had the courage of 
his opinions and truckled to no one, thought the whole outcry pre- 
posterous, and said so. 

I think what chiefly angered me was his views on women, which 
after all were the views prevalent in Germany, only I had not realized 
the fact, having imagined mein Mann sagt was a local peculiarity. 
Relics of this form of barbarism still linger in England, but as voiced 
by a people gone mad on logic, worshippers of brute force, who 
visualize certain facts with the hard stare of eyes devoid of eyelashes, 
these theories would, I fancy, repel even our own reactionaries. 
George III, himself a German, might have subscribed a hundred and 
fifty years ago to William Us famous axiom about women being 
out of place anywhere except in the kitchen, nursery, and church, 
but you often heard it quoted with complete assent by German 
women themselves in my day. 

Brahms, as artist and bachelor, was free to adopt what may be 
called the poetical variant of the Kinder, Kirche, Kuche axiom, 
namely that women are playthings. He made one or two exceptions, 
as such men will, and chief among these was Lisl, to whom his 
attitude was perfect reverential, admiring, and affectionate, with- 
out a tinge of amorousness. Being, like most artists, greedy, it spe- 
cially melted him that she was such a splendid Hausfrau; indeed as 
often as not, from love of the best, she would do her own market- 
ing. During Brahms's visits she was never happier than when con- 
cocting some exquisite dish to set before the king; like a glorified 

Impressions that Remained [1879 

Fiau Rontgen she would come in, flushed with stooping over the 
range, her golden hair wavier than ever from the heat, and cry: "Be- 
gin that movement again; that much you owe me!" and Brahms's 
worship would flame up in unison with the blaze in the kitchen. In 
short he was adorable with Lisl. 

In his relations with her husband, who completely effaced him- 
self as musician in the master's presence, he took pains to be ap- 
preciative, but could not disguise the fact that Herzogenberg's com- 
positions did not greatly interest him. Once when he had been in 
a bad temper and rather cruel about them, Lisl rated him and wept, 
and Brahms kissed her hand and nearly wept too, and it appears there 
was a most touching scene; but the thing rankled in her bosom for 
a long time. 

To see him with Lili Wach, Frau Schumann and her daughters, 
or other links with his great predecessors was to see him at his best, 
so gentle and respectful was his bearing; in fact to Frau Schumann 
he behaved as might a particularly delightful old-world son. I re- 
member a most funny conversation between them as to why the 
theme of his D Major Piano Variations had what she called "an 
unnecessary bar tacked on/' this being one of the supreme touches 
in that wonderful, soaring tune. She argued the point lovingly, but 
as ever with some heat, and I thought him divinely patient. 

His ways with other women-folk or, to use the detestable word 
for ever on his lips, Weibsbilder were less admirable. If they 
did not appeal to him he was incredibly awkward and ungracious; 
if they were pretty he had an unpleasant way of leanipg back in his 
chair, pouting out his lips, stroking his moustache, and staring at 
them as a greedy boy stares at jam-tartlets. People used to think this 
rather delightful, specially hailing it, too, as a sign that the great 
man was in high good humour, but it angered me, as did also his 
jokes about women, and his everlasting gibes at any, excepting Lisl 
of course, who possessed brains or indeed ideas of any kind. I used 
to complain fiercely to her about this, but her secret feeling was, I 
expect, that of many anti-suffragist women I have known, who, for 
some reason or other on the pinnacle of man's favour themselves, 
had no objection to the rest of womenkind being held in contempt 
the attitude of Fatima the Pride of the Harem. To be fair to Lisl, 
I never heard her express definite sentiments on the subject, about 

1879] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

which I had never thought myself, but as she was of her epoch and 

intensely German, her instinct was probably that of Fatima. 

A delightful trait in Brahms was his horror of being lionized. He 
had a strong prejudice against England, which he would jocularly 
insist on for my benefit, but what chiefly prevented his going there 
was dread of our hero-worshipping faculties: "I know how you went 
on with Mendelssohn/' he said. What with their own embarrass- 
ment and his total lack of ease or, as the Italians put it, lack of 
education ordinary mortals who humbly tried to convey to him 
their admiration for his music had rather a bad time. The only per- 
son who sailed gaily through such troubled waters was Consul Lim- 
burger, but this again did not please Brahms and outraged the elect. 
After some performance Limburger once remarked in his airy way: 
"Really, Herr Doctor, I don't know where you mean to take us in 
the slow movement, whether to Heaven or Hell!" and Brahms 
replied with a mock bow: "Whichever you please, Herr Consul/' 
which was quoted as a brilliant piece of repartee that ought to have 
crushed the audacious Limburger. But one retort of his was really 
rather good. The first subject in one of his chamber works is almost 
identical with a theme of Mendelssohn's, and when some would-be 
connoisseur eagerly pointed out the fact, Brahms remarked: "Ganz 
richtig und jeder Schafskopf merkt's leider sofort!" ("Quite so 
and the worst of it is every blockhead notices it directly/') 

I am bound to say his taste in jokes sometimes left much to be 
desired, and can give an instance on the subject of my own name, 
which all foreigners find difficult, and which, as I innocently told 
him, my washerwoman pronounced "Schmeiss." Now, the verb 
schmeissen, "to throw violently/' is vulgar but quite harmless; 
there is however an antique noun, Schmeiss, which means some- 
thing unmentionable, and a certain horrible fly which frequents 
horrible places is called Schmeiss-FHege. As Brahms was for ever 
commenting on the extreme rapidity of my movements, he found 
the play upon words irresistible and nicknamed me "die Schmeiss- 
liege" but Lisl was so scandalized at this joke that he had to 
drop it. 

Among his admirers it was the fashion to despise Wagner, but 
to this he demurred, and a remark he often made: "His imitators are 
monkeys (Affen) but the man himself has something to say/' was 

2 37 

Impressions that Remained [1879 

cited as proof of his noble, generous disposition. People like Joachim 
and Herzogenberg considered Wagner a colossal joke, and I re- 
member their relating how as a sort of penance they sat through a 
whole act of Siegfried, keeping up each other's spirits by exchanging 
a "Good morning" whenever a certain chord, let us say a diminished 
ninth, occurred in the score a very provoking pleasantry even, to 
hear about. 

I like best to think of Brahms at the piano, playing his own com- 
positions or Bach's mighty organ fugues, sometimes accompanying 
himself with a sort of muffled roar, as of Titans stirred to sympathy 
in the bowels of the earth. The veins in his forehead stood out, his 
wonderful bright blue eyes became veiled, and he seemed the in- 
carnation of the restrained power in which his own work is forged. 
For his playing was never noisy, and when lifting a submerged theme 
out of a tangle of music he used jokingly to ask us to admire the 
gentle sonority of his "tenor thumb." 

One of his finest characteristics was his attitude towards the 
great dead in his own art. He knew his own worth what great 
creator does not? but in his heart he was one of the most pro- 
foundly modest men I ever met, and to hear himself classed with 
such as Beethoven and Bach, to hear his C Minor Symphony called 
"The Tenth Symphony/' x jarred and outraged him. Once, when 
he turned up to rehearse some work of his, Reinecke had not yet 
finished rehearsing one of Mozarfs symphonies I forget which 
and after the slow movement he murmured something to Lisl that 
I did not catch. She afterwards told me he had said: "I'd give 
all my stuff (Kram) to have written that one Andante!!" 

Among desultory remarks of his which remained in my mind, I 
remember his saying that he had given up predicting what a young 
composer's development would be, having so often found that those 
he thought talented came to nothing and vice versa; and in this 
connection he pointed out that all the work of Gluck's that still 
lives was written after he was fifty. I have never looked up Gluck in 
a lexicon to see if this opinion would still hold good. 

To me personally he was very kind and fatherly in his awkward 
way 7 chiefly, no doubt, because of the place I held in his friend's 

1 The implication was that it equalled, or surpassed, Beethoven's Ninth 


1879] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

heart; but after a very slight acquaintance I guessed he would never 
take a woman writer seriously, and had no desire, though kindly 
urged by him to do so, to show him my work. At last one day, with- 
out asking my leave, Lisl showed him a little fugue of mine, and 
when I came in and found them looking at it he began analysing it, 
simply, gravely, and appreciatively, saying this development was 
good, that modulation curious, and so on. Carried away by surprise 
and delight, I lost my head, and pointing out a constructive detail 
that had greatly fussed Herzogenberg the sort of thing that made 
him call me a bad pupil asked eagerly: "Don't you think if I feel 
it that way I have a right to end on the dominant?" Suddenly the 
scene changed, back came the ironic smile, and stroking his mous- 
tache he said in a voice charged with kindly contempt: "I am quite 
sure, dear child, you may end when and where you please!" There 
it was! he had suddenly remembered I was a girl, to take whom 
seriously was beneath a man's dignity, and the quality of the work, 
which had I been an obscure male he would have upheld against 
anyone, simply passed from his mind. 

Now let us suppose a publisher had been present and they 
swarmed at the Herzogenbergs 7 what would have been the effect 
of this little scene on a budding inclination to print for me later 
on? And does the public realize that unless it is published, music 
cannot possibly get known? 

I have no intention of alluding to my own work in these memoirs, 
unless to make passing mention of such early performances as hap- 
pen to come within its scope; but there is one incident that hap- 
pened some years later which, for women at least, has general 
application, and of which the fugue story reminds me. I once 
showed a big choral work to Levi, the great Wagner conductor 
an open-minded man and one not afraid to look truth in the face. 
After hearing it he said: "I could never have believed that a woman 
wrote that!" I replied: "No, and what's more, in a week's time 
you won't believe it!" He looked at me a moment, and said slowly: 
"I believe you are right!" Prejudice was bound to prevail over the 
evidence of his senses and intellect in the end he would surely 
feel there must have been a mistake somewhere! . . . It is this back- 
wash that hampers women even more than material obstacles. 


Impressions that Remained [1879 

One day I had a small triumph over Brahms. Among my exer- 
cises for Herzogenberg were two-part "Inventions" in the Bach 
manner, and Lisl played him one of these as a new find unearthed 
by the Bach Society. In it was a certain harmonic turn not of Bach's 
time, but which he, who anticipated most things, might quite well 
have used, and Brahms's remark, which I must quote in the original, 
was: "Dem Kerl fdllt dock immer wieder was Neues em!" ("That 
fellow is always hitting on something new") . When the truth came 
out, the composer was warmly commended and this time did 
not deserve it. It was just a bit of successful mimicry that any fairly 
clever musician might pull off. 

But my greatest success with Brahms who by the by held that 
everyone resembles some orchestral instrument and called me "the 
Oboe" had nothing to do with music. Piqued by his low estimate 
of my sex, I wrote a little sarcastic poem the last verse of which ran: 

Der grosse Brahms hat's neulich ausgesprochen: 

"Ein g'scheidtes Weib, das hat doch keinen Sinn!" 
D'rum lasst urn emsig uns're Dummheit pftegen^ 
Denn nur auf diesem Punkt ist Werth zu legen 
Afe Weib und gute Brahmsianerinn! 

As the great Brahms recently proclaimed: 

"A clever woman is a thing of naught!" 
So let us diligently cultivate stupidity, 
That being the only quality demanded 

Of a female Brahms-admirer! 

That night he was at a supper given in his honour, and the mouth 
of everyone who approached him to talk about his music was stopped 
by his taking the poem out of his breast pocket and insisting on the 
unfortunate person reading it. This characteristic proceeding went 
on, I was told, throughout the evening and must have maddened 
the admirers. 

In post-Leipzig days I saw little of him, but once when I was 
passing through Vienna and called on him, he was more than kind 
and cordial and begged me to fix up a meal at his house on my way 
back. Alas, when the time came he was away. 


1879] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

In jotting down these various Impressions I am quite aware they 
do not do him justice. Even then I knew all about his wonderful 
generosity to poor musicians and old friends fallen on evil days. I 
noticed, too, that even the cynicism about women was belied by the 
extreme delicacy and tenderness of his work, and more especially by 
his choice of words to set to music. But all I can say is that this 
poetical insight did not determine his working theory (ascribed by 
some foolish persons to an early disappointment in love); and the 
point of memoirs so it seems to me is to relate what you saw 
yourself, not what other people, books, or subsequent reflections 
tell you. I saw integrity, sincerity, kindness of heart, generosity 
to opponents, and a certain nobility of soul that stamps all his music; 
but on the other hand I saw coarseness, uncivilizedness, a defective 
perception of subtle shades in people and things, lack of humour, 
and of course the inevitable and righteous selfishness of people who 
have a message of their own to deliver and can't ran errands for 
others. When Wagner died he sent a wreath and was bitterly hurt 
at receiving no acknowledgment. A friend of the Wagners told me 
gloatingly that Cosima had said: "Why should the wreath be ac- 
knowledged? I understand the man 'was no friend to Our Art" 
and my informant added: "It was a mistake to send it at all/' . . . 
Of such was the Kingdom of Wagner. 

The accounts that reached the world of his cruel illness and death 
were infinitely tragic, for he fought against his doom, they say, and, 
like a child when bedtime comes, wept and protested he did not 
want to go. The only consolation is to believe, as I for one do, that 
his best work was behind him, and that perhaps Nature did well to 
ring down the curtain. 

CHAPTER XXV. Spring 1879 

WHEN Brahms came to Leipzig, as he did nearly every winter, 
many other composers unenvious admirers of the greater master 
such as Dvorak, Kirchner, Grieg, etc. used to turn up by magic 


Impressions that Remained [1879 

to do him honour; and of course they all flocked to the Humboldt- 
strasse. My first meeting with Grieg, whom I afterwards came to 
know so well, I remember chiefly because of a well-deserved smack 
in the face it brought me. Grieg, whose tastes were catholic, greatly 
admired the works of Liszt. Now, it was the fashion in my world 
to despise Liszt as composer. But what had to be borne as coming 
from mature musicians may well have been intolerable in a stu- 
dent, and some remark of mine causing Grieg's fury to boil over, he 
suddenly enquired what the devil a twopenny-halfpenny whipper- 
snapper like me meant by talking thus of my betters. Next day at 
cockcrow the dear man came stumping up my stairs to apologize, 
and this incident laid the foundation of a very warm feeling be- 
tween me and the Griegs which came to fruition later on. 

During that winter my friendship with the Wachs grew and con- 
solidated and, what is more, resulted in close relations between 
them and the Herzogenbergs. They had lived in the same town for 
two or three years, and I really believe would never have got be- 
yond mere acquaintanceship but for some chance connecting link 
such as myself. As regards aloofness Lisl found her match in Lili 
(whom I shall allude to in these memoirs as "Lili Wach," to avoid 
confusion with "Lid"); but once the ice was broken, the two 
women became intimate friends, and I often think the one thing 
Lisl stood slightly in awe of was the fastidious judgment and pene- 
trating instinct of Lili Wach. Both the Herzogenbergs, who like 
myself were freethinkers, delighted in Wach, except at funerals and 
other functions involving religion, but they tolerated and even ad- 
mired the simple piety of their old friend Frau von B. - mother of 
the Seven Ravens in whom it was a fundamental, and not, as 
you sometimes felt with Wach, an excrescence. 

By this time Leipzig balls no longer tempted me, but there were 
other opportunities for the display of finery, such as big routs at 
Frau Livia's or the Limburgers' in honour of passing celebrities. On 
these occasions Lisl took great interest in my personal appearance; 
like my mother she would waylay me in corners and passages with 
pins and hairpins that saved the situation, and alas! what had irri- 
tated me in the one case touched and delighted me in the other. 
My musical education was possibly being narrowed in that severely 
classical atmosphere, but I suppose every scheme of education is 


1879] Germany and T-tvo Winters in Italy 

either too narrow or too diffuse. Certainly the impulse towards 
opera, of which I had been conscious in the days of Mr. Ewing, was 
checked for the moment. Though exception was made of course in 
favour of Mozart and Fidelia, my group considered opera a negli- 
gible form of art, probably because Brahms had wisely avoided a 
field in which he would not have shone and of which the enemy, 
Wagner, was in possession. Besides this ? the Golden Age of Leipzig 
had been orchestral and oratorial, and both musicians and concert 
public were suspicious of music-drama. The old families, who had 
been rooted in their Gewandhaus seats from time immemorial, 
seldom hired boxes at the Opera partly, perhaps, because under 
the system of abonnement it was played alternately with drama; 
anyhow it was not the fashion among our Leipzig grandees. I used 
to go and hear Carmen, still my favourite opera, whenever I had a 
chance, and was indignant at Herzogenberg's patronizing remark 
that Bizet was no doubt ein Geniechen (a little genius). But in 
that school Bizet, Chopin, and all the great who talk tragedy with 
a smile on their lips, who dart into the depths and come up again 
instantly like divers who, in fact, decline to wallow in the Im- 
mensities all these were habitually spoken of as small people. 
How I thought of this madness the other day when someone re- 
peated to me a remark Forain had just made at luncheon: "Uart se 
tient dans le crevx de la main!" It appeared they had been discuss- 
ing Wagner, who evidently was not of Foiain's way of thinking, 
having written operas the length of which always seemed to me 
artistically arrogant a wilful ignoring of the limits set by nature to 
human receptivity. But Wagner is, among other things, the great- 
est hypnotizer the world has ever seen, and for the hypnotized time 
does not exist. 

Another curious thing about the Brahms group was that orches- 
tration apparently failed to interest them; consequently it played 
no part in my instruction. No one holds more strongly than the 
writer that content comes first, before you speak it is well to have 
something definite to say. But in that circle what you may call the 
external, the merely pleasing element in music, was so little in- 
sisted on that its motto really inight have been the famous "take 
care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves" 
hardly an adequate outfit for a musician even if the sounds did 

Impressions that Remained [1879 

take care of themselves, which they do not. Once some Orchestral 
Variations of Herzogenberg's were performed which I scarcely rec- 
ognized for the same I had admired as one of the inevitable piano 
duets, so bad was the instrumentation. 

But whatever the defects of my environment may have been, in 
it I learned the necessity, and acquired the love, of hard work, as 
well as becoming imbued with a deep passion for Bach, which I 
think is in itself an education. As I Indicated elsewhere, Herzogen- 
berg and his Berlin collaborators were constantly discovering and 
editing new wonders, and though the Leipzig branch of the Bach 
Verein was not a very grand affair, the arrangement and produc- 
tion of these three-hundred-year-old novelties was enthralling to 
him and us. In the early autumn and late spring it was our custom 
to give concerts in small neighbouring town-lands, starting early in 
various reserved third-class compartments, dining at an inn, and 
contriving to walk back part of the way towards evening through 
the woods. Owing to the benighted pitch of the organs in some of 
these remote country churches, there was not infrequently trouble 
with the wind instruments, and on one occasion, a certain organ 
being in particularly bad repute, the Herzogenbergs and I paid it a 
preliminary visit armed with a horn. He understood the valves but 
could not produce a sound; I, on the contrary, to whom the valves 
were and are a mystery, could at least blow a hunting-horn. Mean- 
while Lisl, physically a model St. Cecilia but knowing less than 
nothing about that saint's instrument, sat at the keyboard holding 
a piercing and uncontrollable "a," and thus between us we found 
out what the possibilities were of a friendly relation between horn 
and organ. The sacristan was scandalized, for though we were in 
church, of course we nearly died of laughing. 

On these concert expeditions Lisl devoted herself assiduously, as 
was only politic, for our funds were never brilliant, to adoring mem- 
bers and their rich friends. All-day excursions with almost any 
group of people are a trial, but one moment was always exquisite. 
We used to take part-songs with us, and after drinking coffee in 
some woodland restaurant a more romantic spot in the forest was 
selected, the tuning fork banged on a stone, and in that divinest of 


1879] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

concert-rooms we made divine music. To be in the Bach Verein at 
all proved you were a serious, indeed often an over-serious and ex- 
ceedingly narrow-minded musician., and if some of our members 
were not in their first youth, zeal atoned for worn-out vocal cords. 
And the crown of all was that the whole thing came to about one 
shilling sixpence per head. 

By the time Good Friday came round again, Papa Rontgen con- 
sidered me fit to take my place among the second violins in the 
annual Passion performance no great compliment as will pres- 
ently be seen imploring me passionately to keep my eye on the 
leader and not cut in at wrong moments in my excitement These 
performances held in the very Thomas Kirche for which the 
work was originally written, and of which Mendelssohn, who redis- 
covered the Passion? had made a great tradition are among the 
most unforgettable experiences of my life. The proceeds were de- 
voted to the Widows and Orphans Fund of the Gewandhaus or- 
chestra, but according to a curious by-law, only those who had 
taken an active part in the performance had a claim on that year's 
balance. Now, many modern instruments have no place in the or- 
chestra of Bach's time; consequently trombones, bass clarinets, and 
other outsiders vamped up in spare hours enough violin to scrape 
their way through Bach's very easy string parts, sitting generally in 
the ranks of the second violins. And so vilely did they play that I 
quite understood why I had been allowed to join them. This was 
the only time I ever performed in an orchestra, and, as may be 
imagined under the circumstances, I was astonished at the hideous 
noises produced round about me and still more astonished the 
following year, when I sat below, to notice how little it matters in 
a big choral work what goes on at some of the second desks! 

I count it as one of the great privileges vouchsafed me that I 
learned to love the Passion in that place of places, the prestige and 
acoustic properties of which make up for the dreariness of its archi- 
tecture. In one of the side galleries, close up to the orchestra, which 
was grouped aloft in front of the organ, sat the Thomaner School- 
boys, representatives of the very choir of which Bach was Cantor. 
I suppose realizing these things has something to do with it, but 

Impressions that Refnained [1879 

never, so it seems to me, is the Chorale in the opening chorus so 
overwhelming as when trumpeted forth with the pride of lawful 
heirs by the Thomaner Chor. 

I despair of giving an idea of the devoutness of the audience. 
Generally speaking, most of the inhabitants of Leipzig, including 
nearly everyone I knew, were either exceedingly conventional 
churchgoers or unbelievers, but on this occasion the dull mist of 
religious indifference appeared to lift for the time being. It was 
not only that the church seemed flooded with the living presence 
of Bach, but you felt as if the Passion itself, in that heart-rending, 
consoling portrayal, was being lived through as at no other moment 
of their lives by every soul in the vast congregation. This is the 
divine part of listening to such music in company with people who 
have known and loved every note of it ever since they were born, 
whose natural language it is. I suppose every artist can say of one 
or two hours in the past that in these he touched the extreme height 
and depth of his emotional life; such hours were mine during a 
certain Passion performance in the Thomas Kirche, in a time of 
great trouble, a few years later. 

The Good Friday solemnity is the supreme flower and conclu- 
sion of the Leipzig musical season, and shortly afterwards Lisl's 
father and mother appeared on the scene, but at different moments, 
for they did not get on and seldom met. I had been requested when 
in England to send some fairy-book "for my mother, who is herself 
a regular old fairy-tale." When I saw Baroness von Stockhausen, 
nee Grafin Baudissin, I said to myself: "The Wicked Godmother!" 
and looking the other day at a superb bust of her by Hildebrand, 1 
belonging to one of her grandchildren, there is no denying that 
this portrait of the Evil Genius of my life bears out that idea. This 
old woman, handsome, gifted, violent as ten devils rolled into one, 
who looked like a Louis XV marquise, I found very attractive, and 
hoped she would like me; but unfortunately I was hated at first 
sight with the vitriolic jealousy of one who had never permitted 
her children to have friends, or even playmates. Herzogenberg, who 
was rather fond of his mother-in-law, once said that but for his 
Jesuit training he could never have achieved the "winning of his 
1 Reproduced, p. 342. 




1879-8] Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

bride, and I noticed that this jocular reference to that agitating time 

rather distressed Lisl. 

The father was an icy-cold Hanoverian nobleman for whom the 
world had ceased revolving round the sun on the day when the 
Court of Hanover, to which he had been Minister, was liquidated. 
After a first brief meeting with these two august personages I was 
implored to shun the house during the remainder of their respective 
visits, Lisl was deeply pained and humiliated by her mother's out- 
rageous unfriendliness towards one in whom she had professed the 
most charming interest, but there was nothing to be done. As well 
reason with Vesuvius. Then, for the first time, I noticed my friend's 
abject terror of conflicts . . . and also her inability to cope with 

CHAPTER XXVI. Summer 1879 to Su?mner 1880 

A WAS about to say most truthfully that I remember absolutely 
nothing about the holidays of 1879, when turning to Lisl's letters 
I find to my astonishment that for a brief moment marriage had 
been spoken of! Perhaps it was in connection with the one and 
only chance I had, or thought I had, of making a "brilliant" mar- 
riage a transitory afterglow of the "Social Ambition phase" 
which promised both leisure for work and more money. As I have 
forgotten no real inner experience however mad and foolish, and 
had utterly forgotten this, the matrimonial mood must have been 
quite evanescent, but LisFs letters, 1 which exhibit her pure, lofty 
view of life in its perfection, followed one another in swift agony. 
It was one of those storms in a teacup which sprang up again and 
again in the course of our friendship; she never grasped how 
strongly, yet how lightly, passing moods affect people of the im- 
pressionable type, and each time was overwhelmed afresh with 

1 Appendix, p. 277, No. 12; p. 278, No. 13. 


Impressions that Remained [1879-80 

During the following autumn in Leipzig I heard Pan-Germanism 
talked for the first time. It was at a dinner party, and the exponent 
was Dr. Simson, a wise, polished old Jew, President of the Imperial 
Court of Justice, which as a sop to Saxony sits at Leipzig. Wach, 
who was my neighbour, and suspected of aiming at the presidency 
of the Reichs-Gericht himself, whispered in my ear that the whole 
thing was a wild-goose scheme. Presently the handsome, grey- 
haired old President, bending across the table in the most courtly 
way, trusted that the charming young foreign lady whose presence 
was such a delight to everyone, etc., etc., would not resent what he 
was about to say, namely that England was now on the down- 
grade. So it had been successively with Spain, Holland, and France, 
the world progressing on the wheel system. And the country now 
swinging to the top, and about to relieve us of the sceptre, was 
"our beloved Fatherland." That conversation remained in my mem- 
ory chiefly because of the speaker's tactful gilding of this pill, his 
discourse being shot through with complimentary references to the 
great part borne by us in civilization. As for his thesis that England 
was played out, it seemed too ridiculous to get angry about. 

I cannot remember whether the new doctrine was ventilated con- 
versationally or in a speech; where professors are present the two 
things are much the same, and the occasion being rather a grand 
one, there were many speeches that day. I was by no means insular, 
I think; a great many German institutions that would not appeal to 
the Anglo-Saxon temperament, such as the periodical excursions 
into the country of musical and other guilds, the Sunday trooping 
forth of whole families into the woods, and even the Stammtisch 
a table at restaurants reserved night after night for the same 
group of bores I found, and still find, charming. But a practice 
no amount of familiarity ever reconciled me* to was speechifying. 
The Germans say of themselves that wherever three of their na- 
tion are gathered together say at the North Pole they instantly 
found a "Society"; if so I believe it is chiefly in order to have an 
excuse for making speeches. You never were safe from them. Even 
at gatherings of old friends and relations your heart would leap into 
your mouth at the familiar slow tap-tap on a wineglass, followed 
by the sacramental words "Verehrte Anwesende!" (Honoured ones 
here present!) while an expression of satisfaction, such as must 

1879-80] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

steal over the faces of watchers on the Rigl when the sun rises, 
transfigured all countenances including those of would-be mod- 
ern people who pretended to dislike speechifying. 

I once saw a terrible thing happen at a birthday feast given by 
Frau von B . The parquet floor was very slippery, the chairs 
of the high-backed top-heavy antique kind had arms, and the 
guests were so numerous that these arms were touching one an- 
other. A pale, melancholy man with dank black hair who sat next 
the hostess rose with some difficulty, as a sardine might rise out of 
a freshly opened box, and made one of those speeches which cause 
honoured ones there present to stare at their plates and roll bread- 
pellets, the theme being the merits of the deceased master of the 
house. It was w r ell meant and no doubt sincere, but more than usu- 
ally platitudinal, involved, and sham-pathetic. When at last, after 
an over-intimate peroration, the speaker sat down suddenly as if 
overcome by emotion, the chair slid away from behind him and he 
absolutely disappeared from view, to be grasped under the armpits 
and hoisted up, swathed in folds of embroidered table-cloth, by the 
horror-stricken ladies to right and left of him. No one smiled; the 
tone of the speech made it impossible to pass the thing off as a 
joke, to express regret, or do anything but pretend no one had 
noticed the incident. And this feat we all accomplished. 

On the other hand the fairs, of which I had spoken disparagingly 
in an early letter home, ended by completely captivating my fancy. 
The great autumn fair, with its ramshackle booths and strangely 
costumed traders from all parts of the world, including Polish 
Jews of a concentrated essence of Israel seldom seen in England, 
was really picturesque; and what redeemed it from the vulgarity of 
the same thing at international exhibitions was the knowledge that 
everyone was there on business only. We particularly loved the . 
crockery market, which was held on the picturesque side of the 
town; all the wares were strewn pell-mell on the ground, and alas! 
uncouth, savagely coloured descendants of antique pottery of beau- 
tiful design were already being crowded out by the forerunners of 
I* Art Nouveau; when you chose one of them the saleswomen 
thought you must be mad. But I think I loved the Christmas fair 
best, for then Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane, the large open 
space between the Museum and the New Theatre being turned 

Impressions that Remained [ 1 879-80 

into a forest of snow-covered little firs. Whole families went forth 
to choose the Christmas-tree, each child shriekingly recommending 
a different one till "mein Mann" finally clinched the matter. 

The Christmas of 1879 I spent in Berlin. There had been much 
lamentation on my part because the Herzogenbergs were suddenly 
summoned to spend the festival with her mother at the Austrian 
aunt's Schloss, but shortly before their departure I made the ac- 
quaintance of a couple, the Conrad Fiedlers, who were destined to 
play a great part in my life. He was the younger son of a grand 
old Leipzigerinn who lived with her eldest son's family in the town 
house in winter, and at her beautiful country place a few miles off 
in the summer. All the Fiedlers were very rich, and why the Con- 
rads had settled at Berlin I never could make out, for they both de- 
tested it and were on the point of migrating to her native town, 

Conrad was of a type you seldom meet in Germany, a fairly well- 
known writer on philosophical subjects, an acknowledged authority 
on painting and sculpture, a generous patron of struggling talent, 
and yet oh wonder! attached to no Institution merely a gentle- 
man at large. More than usually encased in a certain Saxon frigidity 
that contrasts strangely with the geniality of the other brand of 
Saxon, I noticed that everyone secretly coveted his esteem and that 
his word always carried weight. His wife was one of those people 
whom all portrait painters pursue, more especially if the husband 
is a wealthy art patron. At that time she was quite young, tall and 
striking-looking, with daring, gloriously blue eyes, yellow-gold hair, 
and incomparable colouring. Unlike most of the friends mentioned 
in these pages she is still alive, therefore I will merely say that we 
were very fond of each other for years, and that later on, after her 
first husband's death, when she and Frau Wagner became great 
friends, we gradually drifted apart. A gulf was bound to open up 
sooner or later between intimates of Wahnfried and people re- 
fractory to the Wagner cultus. Meanwhile, whether at Munich, at 
Crostewitz (his mother's country house, where an ideal summer 
retreat had been contrived for them at one end of the homely farm 
quadrangle attached to the Schloss) , or at their Florentine Villino, 
their kindness to me was inexhaustible. 


1879-8] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

I first met these new friends, as I sald ? before what promised to 
be a desolate Christmas bereft of Lisl, and with the warm impul- 
siveness which was her chief charm, Mary Fiedler bore me off to 
Berlin then and there. 

Curiously enough 1 can remember nothing about my first im- 
pressions of the town itself, but plenty about the people I met 
there. Of the Joachims 1 saw a good deal. She was the finest con- 
tralto I ever heard, and until she got too fat, the Orpheus of one's 
dreams. Joachim according to all English people was of course per- 
fection, but I saw him in another setting and never wholly liked 
him perhaps among other reasons because trouble was even then 
brewing in his house and all my sympathies were with the wife, 
who, though socially far less satisfactory than her husband, was a 
warm, living human being. I wished she would not crawl under 
the supper table in a fit of New Year jollity, armed with a hat-pin, 
but why did Joachim allow it, I asked myself. Why did he sit 
serenely at the head of the table looking like a planed-down Jupiter 
and utter no remonstrance? In a certain letter 2 Rubinstein's an- 
swer to this riddle may be found, and though obviously grotesque, 
it proves that I was not the only Joachim-heretic in the world. That 
evening Joachim told me he had just heard Melba, and raved about 
her; "How can one speak of coldness/' he asked, "in connection 
with such phrasing?" Perhaps he knew that the same accusation 
was often levelled against himself, and in both cases it is obvious 
what people meant the "coldness/' compared to Renaissance 
work, of the Delphic Charioteer, which is not to everyone's taste. 

Early in these memoirs I told how a fully fledged but not very 
bright cousin of mine expected to see smoke coming up through 
the water when trains passed under the Basingstoke Canal an 
anecdote some people believe with difficulty. I can relate a fact, 
also on oath, about that exceptionally intelligent and cultivated 
man, Joachim, which I find still more incredible, namely that in 
the year 1880 or thereabouts he had no notion that the figures on 
the metronome refer to the number of beats per minute. Herzog- 
enberg, speechless with amazement, seized him by the lapel of his 
coat: "But what then, dear friend," he asked, "do you represent 

2 Seep. 354. 

Impressions that Remained [1879-80 

to yourself when you set it?" "Nothing!" answered Joachim; "I note 
the tempo but have never troubled my head about the basis of the 
matter. ... I supposed it was well, fust like that!" Whereupon 
Lisl remarked: "Thank God! now I hope Heinrich will cease talk- 
ing about women's unarithmetical brains." 

It was in Berlin that Christmas that I first met Rubinstein, and 
in unexpected mood too. A totally talentless maiden, relying I sup- 
pose on her great beauty for his weaknesses were notorious 
had insisted on playing to him with a view to being advised as to 
whether she should make music her career. When she had done he 
remarked quite simply: "How should you ever become an artist?" 
and then, taking up her hand, he pointed in succession to her fin- 
gers, her forehead, and her heart, slowly saying "hier nix, hier nix, 
und hier nix!" a terrible sequence of nothingness that needs no 
translation. There was one thing only that roused the mild-man- 
nered Conrad Fiedler to frenzy half talents, and when I reported 
this incident he was delighted. 

I also saw a good d,eal of two paladins of Brahms's, Philip Spitta, 
the chief excavator and editor of lost Bach treasures, and Chry- 
sander, the biographer of Handel, who told me there were masses 
of yet undeciphered early English music in the British Museum 
compared to which the work of Palestrina and Co. was the groping 
of children, or words to that effect. After Brahms's death two letters 
of mine were returned to me (one being written at Sir George 
Grove's request to beg the loan of the Tragic Overture for the Crys- 
tal Palace concerts) and I find I well rubbed in the learned Chry- 
sander's tribute to despised England. When next we met, Brahms 
asked me to play him some Scotch music, and after listening to 
one of those archaic reels the first phrase of which is, for instance, 
in D major and the second in C major, the remark was: "And this 
people claims to be musical"! . . . 

Fiedler's collection was very fine, and ranged from a superb Hol- 
bein to the early works of the great German sculptor Hildebrand, 
whose first patron he was and whom he completely relieved from 
the necessity of prostituting his genius. There were also plenty of 
modem German pictures (including about ten portraits of Mary) 
Feuerbach and Bocklin, who by the by was Swiss, being the 
only names I can recall; but in the Museum, introducing me to 


Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

Manet and the French school, he once remarked: "Of course one 
must encourage native talent but oh, for something on this level!" 
Feuerbach I thought the bore of bores and loathed Stuck, but 
Manet seemed impossible to take seriously. I marvelled at Conrad's 
enthusiasm though certain he was right, for one felt he knew. He 
introduced me to his great friend Bode, Director, or perhaps then 
he was only Sub-Director, of the Museum. I never was sorrier for 
anyone than for that man when I next saw him, in 1901. Under a 
monarch who did not himself paint, he had got together a wonder- 
ful collection of modern pictures, the apple of his eye. But now he 
was in deep disgrace; the pictures were stowed away under the 
roof, where it was hoped no one would clamber up to see them, 
and there had been a moment, fortunately staved off, when a par- 
ticularly fine Zuloaga seemed likely to leave Berlin for ever by 
command of the All-Highest. Altogether that short stay in Berlin 
was most kindling, and was to lead to further developments before 

Meanwhile I was being a subject of strife in a distant ancestral 
home. Lisl wrote of "my poor mother's King Lear-like feelings/ 7 
and when we met in Leipzig I gathered that the family meeting 
had not been an unqualified success. 

That winter two English friends turned up, St. John Brodrict 
and another man I will not name, merely saying that he afterwards 
became Headmaster of one of our great public schools and was con- 
sidered in England to be very musical, mainly because he sang Ger- 
man songs in German. I introduced him of course to my friends, 
but what I did not bargain for was his proposing to perform himself 
and asking Lisl to accompany his wooden, business-like rendering 
of a particularly romantic song of Brahms's, the refrain of which 
gave full scope for our very peculiar English "r." The effect was 
indescribably comic. I, naturally, was covered with shame; as for 
Lisl, she literally laid her head on the music to conceal her laugh- 
ter, while the singer plodded on sturdily, far too pleased with him- 
self to notice anything. But whereas she was only amused at this 
exhibition and forthwith added an incomparable bit of mimicry to 
her repertory, Herzogenberg was irritated at the bottomless cheek 

Impressions that Remained [1879-80 

of this countryman of mine, especially after he had upset the cream- 
jug over Lisl's black velvet gown, merely remarking: "That comes 
of gesticulating." 

In April the Herzogenbergs went to Italy, and my longing, in- 
flamed by contact with the Fiedlers, to go there myself was such 
that I begged her, as in the case of hunting in the home correspond- 
ence, never to mention the word "Italy" in her letters a piece of 
unreasonableness and intense selfishness that serene well-balanced 
person could not understand but reproachfully gave in to. On my 
mother's birthday, June 2, there was a performance at the Wachs' 
by Rontgen and his team of a string quartet of mine, a mere piece 
of student's work of course. I have said hard things about German 
speechifying, but on this occasion Wach made a most beautiful 
little speech about my mother, and about absent friends who did 
their best to replace her as regards one of her children. By that 
time Lisl's raillery had almost cured my childish habit of tears, but 
it was difficult to keep them back then. There were two great bonds 
between me and Lili Wach, who was very religious my thorough 
knowledge of the Bible, and my devotion to my mother and I 
noticed this speech of her husband's moved her as much as it did 
me. Afterwards I got up and silently kissed him; the action wasn't 
ridiculous and seemed so to no one. I don't think anything ever 
gave my mother greater pleasure than hearing about that evening. 

Part of the early summer of 1880 I spent at Crostewitz, and was 
thrilled to see the small round cannon balls of 1813 still sticking in 
the walls of the house. Madame Fiedler, as everyone called Con- 
rad's mother (a nomenclature dating from the cannon-ball era and 
which seemed only to have survived in her case) , kept open house, 
and on Saturdays and Sundays the lake and skittle-ground swarmed 
with the "nice" people of the neighbourhood, reinforced by stiffly 
buttoned-up, heel-clicking officers from the garrison. Later on, a 
gorgeous supper was served in a big verandah fronting the wood- 
girt lake, followed by cards for the seniors, and society games, boat- 
ing, and flirtation for the juniors. Madame Fiedler was passionately 
fond of whist, and one evening I heard her remark to a profusely 
decorated General and Excellenz who had just lost her the game, 
that she feared the young ones were better at love-making than 
their elders at cards. This characteristic little dig, delivered with a 


1879-8] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

pensive, kindly smile, went home, the Excellenz's spendthrift son, 
a Lieutenant in the Guards, being at that moment engaged in ex- 
ploring the woods with a penniless beauty. Mary, who detested 
these gatherings, would generally plead ill health and retire to her 
vast bed, where she partook of a delicate supper and half a bottle 
of champagne. Country joys did not appeal to her, and most of her 
time at Crostewitz was spent in that bed. 

Madame Fiedler's eldest son, Philipp, goodnaturedly gave me 
the run of his stable, and the two astonished carriage horses were 
driven tandem about the tortuous, rut-riven lanes. One of them, 
a grey whose hind-quarters I thought looked like jumping, was 
even urged over the fences on the steeplechase course. Once we 
came a terrific crash which slightly crippled both me and my mount 
for a time and nearly killed Madame Fiedler, who though the most 
masterful of old chatelaines was exceedingly nervous about ani- 
mals. Dreamy Doctor Philipp of course like all cultivated Ger- 
mans he had taken his degree in philosophy was a poet of real 
talent gone to seed (for unfortunately he versified as some people 
chatter, without reflection or self-control), and the result of this 
adventure was a fantastic poetical drama in which all the person- 
ages of our little world were introduced with pseudonyms of the 
Pilgrim's Progress kind. For instance Mary was "Lockenlicht" 
(Shining-locks), Herzogenberg "Canonicus Fugenfiirst" (Canon 
Fugue-prince), Lisl "Etherzart" (Delicate-as-Ether), the author 
himself, who had been much blamed by his wife and mother for 
lending me the horse, "Doctor Unbedacht" (Doctor Thoughtless), 
and so on. 

This kindly man had one little weakness, a tendency to exag- 
gerated thrift, and if everyone had not already known that Madame 
Fiedler's open-handed hospitality caused her heir some heartburn- 
ings, they would have guessed it from his naive choice of a pseudo- 
nym for her "Frau Spendegern" (Mrs. Glad-to-Spend). In con- 
clusion the play was called "Miss Hopp-in-die-Welt" here no 
translation is required and was supposed to be very complimen- 
tary to the heroine, but to see ourselves as others see us is seldom 
all satisfaction. I mention this amazing production, in which there 
are some very pretty verses, because the whole incident was so 

2 55 

Impressions that Remained [ 1 880-8 1 

That spring there was a good deal of tennis at Dolitz, the Lim- 
burgers' country house (though the real Ddlitz period came later), 
and there was also a plan of my going to Oberammergau with 
Johanna Rontgen; but the absurd thing is that I cannot remember 
whether it came off or whether I only assisted at the performance 
in the illustrated papers pests that take the edge off everything 
but acutest first-hand impressions. Anyhow I know that I eventu- 
ally joined my mother at Homburg, she having been convoyed 
thither, very ill, by 'one of my married sisters, and remember her 
maid remarking scornfully as she struggled with the usual chest of 
drawers fitted with one key only: "I suppose the Germans don't 
know what knobs is." After that we went on to Ragatz, where, alas! 
as at Homburg, I jeered at Mother's enthusiasm for the Kurhaus 
bands. On the way home we spent a couple of days in Paris; al- 
though she was hardly able to stand, a few new bonnets were 
picked up, and on this journey, as ever when she was really ill, her 
pluck and cheerfulness filled me with admiration. And so to Eng- 
land, where the financial situation was much discussed and noth- 
ing radical done to meet it. 

CHAPTER XXVII. Summer 1880 to Summer 1881 

W HILE travelling with my mother I had been told about a charm- 
ing newcomer in our neighbourhood whom she had as yet seen little 
of, but who was said to be very musical and looking forward to 
meeting the Leipzig daughter. Knowing what "very musical" 
amounts to in England, expectation did not run high, but on the 
day she had been asked to lunch I sat down at the piano, just for 
fun, as her dogcart drew up at the door, and began playing Im 
Freien - a Schubert song I was wild about just then. Presently a 
very nice-looking woman of the smart sporting type was ushered in 
who cheerfully uttered the words: "Ah! dear old Chopsticks!" . . . 
The drawback of this anecdote is that probably few serious musicians 

i88o-8i] Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

know "Chopsticks/' and the sort of people who know "Chopsticks" 
are still less likely to know Im Freien. I shall therefore give a few 
bars of each, and to simplify matters will transpose "Chopsticks" 
for the Erst time in its life into the key of the other five flats. 


Fortunately there was one person present worthy this moment, 
my mother. 

On the other hand, during these holidays I was destined to meet 
a person in whose existence I did not believe: an Englishwoman 
of my own type that is, one not bom to the profession, with 
whom I could associate musically on equal terms; and as she lived 
only ten miles off, it became my habit to fly over to see her when- 
ever I could, generally with a roll of music paper tied on to my 
saddle. Thus began the friendship between me and Adela Wode- 
house (wife of Mr. Edmund Wodehouse, M.P. for Bath), a friend- 
ship which was the chief musical stimulus of my life in England, 
and which has lasted to this day unchanged but for the patina 
that all things real, solid, and delicate acquire with years. 

Impressions that Remained [i 880-81 

That summer I sang enough Schubert to satisfy even my mother. 
Papa, though wholly unmusical, liked soft music after dinner, and 
there was one song we christened "Papa's Surprise" for he never 
recognized it. Each time it began he would say: "Now I like that/' 
and gradually his Times would sink on to his knees and his eyes 
close. The song is Schubert's Du bist die Ruh for two verses 
the gentlest strain ever penned; but in the third, at the words (I 
translate literally) "This canopy of thine eyes, by thy brilliance 
. . . ALONE . . . LIGHTED!" it suddenly surges and very quickly 
too, to a crash on a high note after which there is a pause. At 
this point again and again Papa would wake up with a start and 
say: "Hullo! is that the gun?" 

During these holidays a case of misinterpreted symptoms oc- 
curred which I cite as a warning to mothers and aunts, Mary Hunter's 
second baby, Phyllis, a very pretty child with big blue eyes, showed 
such an extraordinary sensibility to music straining out of her 
nurse's arms till her head almost touched the keyboard that 
we concluded, much to her father's horror, she must be a musical 
genius. But she turned out to be merely an exceptionally highly 
strung child; and though in after years she bore the infliction of a 
musical aunt with heroism, she rather dislikes music than otherwise. 

And now, on the eve of chronicling yet another great friendship, 
the moment has come to express regret that unlike other women 
writers of memoirs, such as Sophie Kowalewski, George Sand, and 
Marie Bashkirtseff if for a moment I may class myself with such 
as these I have so far no orthodox love-affairs to relate, neither 
soulful sentiment for musician of genius, nor perilous passion con- 
ceived among the reeds of the Crostewitz Lake for proud Prussian 
guardsman. In my letters to Lisl, where all the secrets of my heart 
stand revealed, I again and again express a conviction it is foolish 
to insist upon, so obvious is it, that the most perfect relation of all 
must be the love between man and woman, but this seemed to me, 
given my life and outlook, probably an unachievable thing. Where 
should be found the man whose existence could blend with mine 
without loss of quality on either side? My work must, and would 
always, be the first consideration, and as I said elsewhere, the idea 
that men might think one wanted to catch them checked incipient 


i88o-8i] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

romance. For a space I had imagined myself in love with the hus- 
band of one of my friends, not Aloysius by the by! a ridiculous 
fancy at once confessed to his wife, who was rather gratiSed and 
not at all alarmed. This fleeting sentiment was mastered and con- 
signed to limbo without its object being any the wiser; and all the 
time I was more or less aware that had this individual been eligible 
such an idea would never have entered my head. As in the case of 
my own admirers, immunity from consequences favoured the tender 
illusion of a hopeless attachment. What Fate had in reserve for me 
as regards the supremest relation of all who could say? . . . Mean- 
while, as my mother wrote in a letter to a friend, the desire to be 
looked after, helped, and loved was as imperative as the instinct of 
independence that seemed predominant. And as, in order to receive 
you must give . . . give I didl 

Let me say here that all my life, even when after years had brought 
me the seemingly unattainable, I have found in women's affection a 
peculiar understanding, mothering quality that is a thing apart. 
Perhaps too I had a foreknowledge of the difficulties that in a world 
arranged by man for man's convenience beset the woman who leaves 
the traditional path to compete for bread and butter, honours and 
emoluments difficulties honest men are more aware of, perhaps, 
than she of the sheltered life. I had no theories about it then but 
I think I guessed it. Even among the conformists I saw good, brave 
women obliged because of their sex to give way before dullness, 
foolishness, or brutality; and in natures inclined to side with the 
handicapped these things kindle sympathy and admiration. And 
further it is a fact, as H. B. once remarked, that the people who 
have helped me most at difficult moments of my musical career, 
beginning with my own sister Mary, have been members of my own 
sex. Thus it comes to pass that my relations with certain women, 
all exceptional personalities I think, are shining threads in my life. 

In one of her letters Jane Austen remarks that so-and-so is "too 
apt to like people" a tendency which is possibly a sign of a 
generous temperament, as one would like to believe, but which also 
implies lack of self-control, and sometimes a wilful drugging of one's 
critical faculties. Owing to this weakness I often made mistakes, yet 
only one bad one a misfortune mentioned from honesty, as it hap- 
pened long after the date at which these memoirs close. And I may 

Impressions that Remained [i 880-81 

add that if the world is inclined to scoff or speak ill of women's friend- 
ships, this is one of those cheap generalities which will pass muster 
only as long as women let men do their thinking for them, and 
which moreover are given the lie to by the experience of many who 
hand them round, did they but choose to testify. Having said this 
I will now pass on to the next on my list of great friendships. 

Barbara Hamley had often spoken to me of Agnes and Rhoda 
Garrett, who were among the first women in England to start busi- 
ness on their own account and by that time were well-known house 
decorators of the Morris school. Agnes was sister to Mrs. Fawcett 
and Dr. Garrett Anderson Rhoda, their cousin, rather older than 
Agnes, daughter of a clergymen whose second wife had practically 
turned her predecessor's children out of the house to fend for them- 
selves. Late in the autumn Barbara introduced me to these great 
friends of hers, and during the next two years their house became 
the focus of my English life owing to the friendship that sprung 
up between Rhoda and me. 

Both women were a good deal older than I, how much I never 
knew nor wished to know, for Rhoda and I agreed that age and 
income are relative things concerning which statistics are tiresome 
and misleading. How shall one describe that magic personality of 
hers, at once elusive and clear-cut, shy and audacious? a dark 
cloud with a burning heart something that smoulders in repose 
and bursts into flame at a touch. . . . Though the most alive, amus- 
ing, and amused of people, to me at least the sombre background 
was always there perhaps because the shell was so obviously too 
frail for the spirit. One knew of the terrible struggle in the past to 
support herself and the young brothers and sisters; that she had been 
dogged by ill health as well as poverty heroic, unflinching through 
all. Agnes once said to me: "Rhoda has had more pain in her life 
than was good for her/' but no one guessed that like her brother 
Edmund champion of Rhodes, youthful collaborator with Lord 
Milner, cut off at the zenith of his powers she carried in her the 
seeds of tubercular disease. And yet when the end came there was 
little of surprise in one's grief; thus again and again had one seen 
falling stars burn out. 

I spoke of her humour; on the whole I think she was more amus- 


i88o-8i] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

ing than anyone else I have ever met a wit half-scornful, always 
surprising, as unlike everyone else's as was her person ... a slim, 
lithe being, very dark, with deep-set burning eyes that I once made 
her laugh by saying reminded me of a cat in a coal scuttle. Yet cats' 
eyes are never tender, and hers could be the tenderest in the world. 

I always think the feel of a hand as it grasps yours is a determining 
factor in human relationships, and all her friends must well remem- 
ber Rhoda's the soft, soft skin that only dark people have, the 
firm, wiry, delicate fingers. My reason tells me she was almost plain, 
but one looked at no one else when she was in a room. There was 
an enigmatic quality in her witchery behind which the grand lines, 
the purity and nobility of her soul, stood out like the bone in some 
enchanted landscape. No one had a more subtle hold on the imagina- 
tion of her friends, and when she died it was as if laughter, aston- 
ishment, warmth, light, mystery, had been cut off at the source. 
The beauty of the relation between the cousins, and of that home 
life in Gower Street, remains with us who knew them as certain 
musical phrases haunt the melomaniac, and but for Agnes, who 
stood as far as was possible between her and the slings and arrows 
which are the reward of pioneers, no doubt Rhoda's life would have 
spent itself earlier. Her every burden, human and otherwise, was 
shouldered by Agnes, and both had a way of discovering waifs and 
strays of art more or less worsted by life whose sanctuary their house 
henceforth became. 

Soon after making their acquaintance I went back to Leipzig with 
a new interest to look forward to for my next stay in England. 

There is not much to relate about that autumn and winter in < 
Germany. The various musical events, sonatas and quartets hope- 
fully composed and privately performed, though enthralling inci- 
dents at the time, are of no interest in after years to anyone not 
even to the composer herself. But March 1881 1 well remember, for 
a stray reference shows it was then that I paid my first visit to a 
princely castle a real castle this time. 

There was a certain young Prince Reuss cramming under Wach 
for his law degree, who was a very gifted composer and might have 
gone far but for his high estate. This youth, too delicate to propose 
it himself (for Herzogenberg only taught me as a special favour), 

Impressions that Remained [i 880-81 

implored me to persuade Aloysius to give him lessons, which 
Aloysius, who had a strange passion for teaching, consented to do. 
And often did he complain, both before Reuss and behind his back, 
of the new pupil's durchlauchtige Schlamperei (Serene-Highness- 
like slovenliness). I thus saw a great deal of this young man, who 
was very attentive, so much so that Brahms's joke of the moment 
was to call me "die durchlauchtige Miss." Frau Livia, too, thought 
well to remind me that the alliances of these princelings are as 
carefully regulated as those of the Hohenzollerns themselves a 
warning that half amused, half infuriated me. Frau Livia never could 
understand that from my point of view Reuss was no more a possi- 
ble husband than a chimney-sweep in fact less so, for I might 
have ridden rough-shod over the sweep but never over the traditions 
of a mediatized princeling. Yet it rather provoked me, and Lisl too, 
that safely entrenched in the Almanach de Gotha, Reuss seemed 
to think he could flirt with an ineligible young woman as much as 
lie pleased King Cophetua miraculously inoculated against possi- 
ble complications with the beggar-maid. 

The Reusses, as may be gathered from bewildering reference to 
them in contemporaneous history, are all named Heinrich and num- 
bered, the numbers running up to sixty and then starting afresh. 
The reigning Reuss-Kostritz, our Heinrich's father, was rather a nice 
old man, almost as musical as his son, and there were two very 
friendly daughters a little older than I, one of whom married the 
King of Bulgaria. They once told me comically and truly that they 
were langweilig aber herzvoll (dull but full of heart). Their 
brother, Heinrich XXIV, was saved from commonplaceness by an 
abounding sense of humour, which now and again stopped dead at 
unexpected places as often happens with German princes. 

To the castle of these potentates, when it became impossible for 
the home-loving Herzogenbergs to go on refusing repeated invita- 
tions, did we repair. The manner of life seemed curious to me but 
was I believe typical: a mixture of formality and unbending, of lavish- 
ness and pettifogging economy not without humorous charm. Cer- 
tain features of it horrified my democratic fellow guests. For instance 
the fare of the singing mistress, a Leipzig gentlewoman treated by 
them as family friend, was included in her yearly fee on a second- 
class basis, which was quite reasonable since it is a. German saying 


i88o-8i] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
that only princes, English people, and fools travel first-class. But 
if by chance they travelled together, which sometimes happened, as 
the princesses often shopped In Leipzig, they would converse with 
this lady amicably on the platform and then stalk into their own 
first-class compartment, never dreaming of asking her to join them. 
From start to finish of our stay music was made, and it was the same 
when a few days later I went to Weimar to visit a connection, Cecilia 
Wodehouse, who had married a ceriain Baron von Liliencron, cousin 
of Herzogenberg and an admirable cellist. What has always seemed 
to me the only thing that counts, being a matter that boom and 
fashion cannot affect, is the general level of musical intelligence in a 
country, including the part played by art in domestic life; and cer- 
tainly at that time Germany was ideal in that respect. 

That year the fury of the Germans raged over the South African 
War, and I then fully realized a fact of which incidents such as the 
scene with the musical stationer had given me an inkling; namely, 
that, unutterably kind as everyone was to me personally and let 
me say once for all that forty volumes of memoirs would not exhaust 
that theme England had become an object of jealous detestation 
to the coming race of political thinkers in Germany. Unfortunately 
every male German seemed to be a politician, and I was assailed on 
all sides, cross-questioned, and bullied about our South African 
muddles till at last I wrote to my father asking for a few good argu- 
ments. As there were none, no wonder his replies were unconvincing. 

That spring someone lent me a well-bred little mare and, remem- 
bering the Fiedler incident, carefully informed me she could not 
jump. But one day I met a hilarious party driving a wagon full gal- 
lop in a field lane, and when I pressed her up against some stout rails 
to make room, she suddenly leapt them sideways in a style only an 
accomplished fencer could manage without coming to grief. Put at 
them in orthodox fashion her performance was so brilliant that I 
persuaded the owner to let me ride her in a Schnitzel Jagd mild 
steeplechases got up periodically by the Leipzig young men. If I 
had won I should certainly remember and record the fact. 

When the time came round again for leaving Leipzig, love of 
Faust and curiosity to see old German architecture took me home 
via the Harz, Brunswick, and Hildesheim. The Brocken, viewed at 

Impressions that Remained [i 880-81 

midday in the wrong light, looked so insignificant and hideous that 
I wished I had never gone there, but the old towns made up for it; 
also Bremen, where as a special favour, and in spite of the South 
African War, I was allowed to taste the famous century-old wine 
kept in a vat as big as a small house. It was like stale gooseberry wine 
only nastier. These journeys were conducted on such economical 
lines that they cost less, all told, than a through ticket to England. 
Herzogenberg once said, after we had been on a joint excursion 
somewhere, that at every place I came to I made for the most 
villainous-looking hotel I could find and asked for a Kutscher Zim- 
mer (a cabman's room), which was more or less true. But what 
matter; who cares about comfort in early life? At Hildesheim I saw 
a gigantic rose tree, said to be five hundred years old, that almost 
hid the church tower it clambered over, and when I told our gardener, 
Allen, about it, he said: "Dear me, that's quite a novelty/* Allen, like 
most old gardeners, was a character, but all I will say about him is 
that he constantly used a fine tense expression I have clung to all 
my life the sort of expression you never hear in drawing-rooms 
making a job of a thing. No weakening adjective; not a good job 
. . . fust a job. 

That summer, when not at Frimhurst or visiting Alice and Mary 
in the North, I of course spent all my time with the Garretts, and 
seeing that for nine months of the year I was in Germany, this pained 
my mother. They rented an old thatched cottage at Rustington of 
which they had made the most perfect of habitations, and the sum- 
mer holidays and any odd days they could snatch from business were 
spent there. Rustington was then quite an unfrequented spot a 
few straggling old cottages and farmhouses, a fine Norman church, 
sometimes flicked by spray when south-west gales blew, and an al- 
most deserted beach. 

I think I have never been happier in my life than there. An ex- 
hausting fight against the stream of prejudice, such as the Garretts 
had waged for many years, was not to be my portion till later; still 
we were all three hard-working women, and if circumstances are 
propitious no one can be more happily lazy than workers. Of course 
both cousins and all their friends were ardent Suffragists, and I won- 
der now at the patience with which they supported my total indif- 


i88o-8i] Germany and Tnxo Winters In Italy 

ference on the subject an indifference I was to make up for thirty 
years later. 

Their great friends the Parrys had a house close by, and besides 
helping me with invaluable musical criticism and advice Hubert 
Parry lent me a canoe, in which on very cairn days, cautiously dressed 
in bathing costume, I put out to sea. There too I got to know the 
Fawcetts, and saw how that living monument of courage, the blind 
Postmaster-General, impressed the country people as he strode up 
and down the hills in the company of his wife. I thought Mrs. 
Fawcett rather cold, but an incident that happened the summer 
after the death of Rhoda, to whom she was devoted, taught me 
otherwise. One day when I was singing an Irish melody I had often 
sung at Rustington "At the mid hour of night" I suddenly 
noticed that tears were rolling down her cheeks, and presently she 
got up and quietly left the room. After that for many years I never 
saw her. Then came the acute Suffrage struggle, during which the 
gulf that separated Militants from National Unionists belched forth 
flames, but through all those years, remembering that incident, I 
always thought of Mrs. Fawcett with affection. . . . 

The beach at Rustington is connected in my mind with one of 
the oddest manifestations of the tender passion I ever heard of. A cer- 
tain man we knew, not a bachelor, was secretly beloved only it 
wasn't quite a secret by a maiden of gentle birth. The man, a 
strong swimmer, was in the habit of seeking out desolate places on 
the shore, depositing his garments in a bundle among the brush- 
wood, and swimming out miles and miles to sea. One day when he 
returned he found a little bunch of flowers on the bundle and 
thought it was a joke of some passing stranger . . . but next day the 
same thing happened. Much perturbed, he varied his jumping-off 
place, but without success, for the hour of high tide is no secret and 
he was marked down by this infatuated maiden again and again. 
Just as I was leaving Rustington his much amused wife told us he 
talked of giving up bathing. 

My mother's trips to Homburg had now become an annual,neces- 
sity the one welcome result in her eyes of her growing infirmities 
but whoever took her there that year, J fear it was not I. Nina 
was out now, and Violet just emerging, and it became an institu- 

Impressions that Remained [i 880-81 

tion that during Mother's absences from home, whether abroad or 
on visits to Alice and Mary, Aunt Judy should install herself at Frim- 
hurst as chaperon. As I have said, the whole family adored her, and 
their affection was warmly reciprocated, but I fancy that finding 
herself once more within reach of Aldershot and the homage of the 
R.E.'s was the supreme delight of these visits. 

Of course they flocked to see her, and there were many little ex- 
peditions to the camp tea with old friends, or at the R.E. mess, 
regimental sports, and so on. Nothing if not feminine, Aunt Judy 
would often insist on her nervousness, but I always think it argued 
great courage on the part of an invalid to drive about the country in 
our carriages, for owing to rising prices my father's bargains in horse- 
flesh were becoming ever younger and less well-mannered, and our 
fantastic reputation for accidents was growing. Driving to balls in 
winter was really no joke, for two great belts of fog rising from the 
Canal and the Blackwater (of vegetable-marrow fame) lay across the 
road to almost anywhere, and at such spots Papa would spend 
the time head out of window, exhorting the coachman in Anglo- 
Indian phraseology to "keep on the track." And a legend had reached 
Aunt Judy in the far North that, ever hopeful, he had once con- 
tinued these admonitions, with emphatic reinforcement, while the 
carriage was in the very act of slowly turning over into the ditch. 
But, fortunately for her, most of her chaperon visits took place in 
the summer when at least the fog danger was in abeyance. 

I think she thoroughly enjoyed supervising her charges' little flir- 
tations, and certainly took a touching interest in them as some of 
her letters to be given later will show. 1 At first I meant to eliminate 
where possible the poor spine, the feather bed, the wretched head, 
etc., etc., referred to elsewhere, but her literary style twines so grace- 
fully among these unlovely themes, like dog-roses among old bram- 
bles, that I thought better of it. In a letter not appended there is 
trenchant allusion to my preoccupation with my new friends: "the 
General's portrait of Ethel flying hither and thither after successive 
deities of her imagination tho' I regard these attachments as so 
much froth and foam on the top of a deep affection for her own 
people is very vivid, and sounds anything but soothing to tired 
and sensitive nerves. However I suppose one must pay for bringing 
1 Appendix, p. 290, No. 2 et seq. 


i88o-8i] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

a pocket Niagara into the world! But she is not in the first uproar 
of youthful flightiness now and I do wish she were more considerate 
of you." I re-echo that wish with all my heart, but cannot help 
thinking that if dear Aunt Judy had herself been No. i, as in days 
of yore, she might have been more lenient! 

During the particular summer I am writing about she arrived as 
usual a few days before my mother's departure for the North, and 
learned that this time her flock was to include a certain Miss H. 
one of Mother's treasures picked up in Homburg who was about 
to pay us her first visit, and whose dramatic arrival next day she had 
the luck to witness. A new cook being expected by the same train, 
the tax-cart had been sent to the station as well as the brougham, 
and in due course the horrified party assembled on the lawn saw 
the cart pull up at the front door with a stout person in it clad in 
bright blue velvet (it was a hot summer's day) and covered with 
chains and brooches. My mother rose and made at a relatively rapid 
pace for the porch, prepared to send this audacious lady back whence 
she came with a month's wages, but lo and behold! it was her new 
friend, who having asked for the Frimhurst conveyance, and finding 
only the tax-cart, had, like a sensible woman, got in, the groom 
taking her of course for the cook. As Papa was a magistrate, police- 
men were often about the place, and a handy constable, despatched 
at once to find out what had become of the brougham, returned in 
five minutes to report that a fly was in the canal with a lady inside. 

The lady turned out to be the new cook; the lost brougham came 
home two or three hours later, and the very simple explanation of 
the whole affair was that our then coachman was yet another old 
soldier, and that between Frimhurst and the station there were no 
fewer than seven public-houses. . . . Miss H. informed us that 
the groom's face when bidden to take her to the front door was a 
study, and added that if we knew all she had learned about the 
family during that drive we should never hold up our heads again! 

Before starting next day my mother had specially begged Aunt 
Judy to send an account of her impressions of the new guest, and 
the impressions were not favourable. 2 A cheery, bouncing Canadian, 
not in her first youth, she was the last person to appeal to Mrs. 
Ewing's taste, but the real rock of offence was a determined effort 

2 Seep. 292. 


Impressions that Remained [i 880-81 

to set up a flirtation with my father. As I have hinted, Aunt Judy 
herself was -not averse to a little delicate flirting on her own lines; 
we all, even Mother, her great friend, used to smile to ourselves 
when, after washing her hair, she would appear in the drawing-room, 
cover the hearthrug with a towel, and with a charming "May I?" lie 
down flat on her back, spreading out her long pale-golden tresses fan- 
wise. But she was an old friend, and such tender little graces were 
soon put out of court by the extremely vigorous methods of the 
other. Papa's conduct under assault seems to have been blameless; 
indeed, the lady being neither young nor beautiful, I can well be- 
lieve that though gratified he was more bored than anything else. 

And now mark how even a very clever woman will put her foot 
into it sometimes. In an evil hour Aunt Judy thought it her duty to 
report these proceedings to the absent lady of the house; the result 
was manifest gratitude . . . tempered by so much secret resentment 
that from henceforth my mother's enthusiasm for her friend began 
to cool! And this is the explanation of a thing that had puzzled me 
the rather sudden petering out of the correspondence. 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 


From Elisabeth von Herzogenberg (List) 


Ober Dotting: June 12, 1878, 

(In German) . . . What a queer desire . . . to want to hear "one 
more dream"! well, here it is. It was the day of your departure; you 
were starting first, not I, and had not come to say good-bye. I was 
surprised at this and went to the window to see if you were not com- 
ing . . and then suddenly there was a big piece of water the 
Channel I suppose and I saw you on the boat. I stretched out my 
arms towards you, you did the same, and as I ran to the shore, I saw 
you making signs the result of which was that the ship came to land. 
But while we were saying good-bye it went off again, and you said 
you would catch it at the next landing-place. I feared for your heart 
and said: "Anyhow I will go with you all the way, Ethel/' and we 
hurried along arm in arm. But I felt I couldn't keep it up and got 
frightened yet didn't want to forsake you, and both of us were in a 
state of strange distress and sadness; then all became misty till the 
deafening noise of a mill past which we were tearing woke me up. 
. . . How vividly I remember looking out of the window, seeing you 
standing there, and stretching out longing arms towards you! . . . 

July 15, 1878. 

(In German) . . . What you say about your multifarious occupa- 
tions, including, it would seem, some literary undertaking or other, 
fills me with apprehension. It seems to me you have a specific duty 
towards your gift for music and should not let yourself be drawn 
away in other directions. If you were not in the growing stage I would 
say nothing; why should you not develop yourself in all directions 
and put forth as many shoots as you please? But talent is a destiny 
that imposes definite responsibilities . . . and one must wholly give 
oneself up to it when young if it is to bear good fruit. You know 
that as well as I, but your ambitions take you into side paths. I am 

Impressions that 'Remained 

absolutely against the one-sided education that turns people into 
machines botanical, geographical, mathematical, or otherwise 
and brushes aside all human considerations as not to the purpose. 
But in the case of a normal, healthily developed individual like your- 
self, who has eyes and ears for everything that merits attention, who 
has cultivated no one quality at the expense of the rest, who in a 
word is first a human being and then an artist, I do not think there 
is any danger of becoming one-sided even though one's whole 
energy be focused by the burning glass of enthusiasm for the bene- 
fit of one specific talent, and a flame kindled that everything else 
must feed. 

Ethel! you have not yet served your music for seven years, and 
you think its conquest easier than is really the case that is to say, 
you don't think so really, but your quickly stirred nature responds 
to this and that call, and whatever you are doing at the moment 
seems to you of supreme importance , . . even lawn tennis! And 
then you become deaf, or won't listen, to the soft voice of what ought 
to be dearer to you than everything else! I was going to say all this 
before your last letter arrived, in which you confess that you are 
idle! . . . Oh, wicked, lazy bride, who does not deserve that the 
precious lamp should have been put into her hand unless she takes 
better care of it! ... Ethel, beware lest it should be with you as 
with me. ... I often could weep to think of the time I have lost, 
how badly I have husbanded my little talent. And now here I am 
for all my artist's soul in the bonds of wretched dilettantism! If you 
knew what pain my conscience gives me, how it hurts as if it had an 
actual seat within like the heart one feels beating, you would do any- 
thing to avoid such a fate. 

It is evident to me that the first step, difficult as it seemed, of 
winning your freedom, was nothing compared to what should fol- 
lowthe daily working up of energy for a persistent diligence 
against which our weaknesses, big and little, are for ever in array! 
. . . Poor little Ethel, no one can understand your state of mind 
better than I, who am far more lazy by nature than you! And now, 
when I would give anything to work hard, it is too late! . . . 

Tell me how you divide up your day, how much time remains for 
music when you have got through your literary work, your riding, 
your social distractions, your dinner parties, your lying about in the 


Germany and Tiuo Winters in Italy 

fields with Goethe under your arm. I cannot imagine how you can 
get in any real work, even a little counterpoint. I know that to work 
3 cant i firmi carefully takes me a lot of time, and besides that there 
is your piano practice to be done, your reading at sight, your study- 
ing, if possible, of scores, and your Variations to be written! . . . O 
Ethel how can the day be long enough for all this? and yet you long 
for more, cannot console yourself for renouncing your usual lawn- 
tennis triumphs, and are pining for balls! . . . Ach Gott! Ach Gott! 
what a demon of life possesses you! (la cigale ay ant chante tout 
fete, etc.). . . . My beloved child, you asked for a sermon and now 
you've got one! And don't talk to me about your youth; you are far 
older than your years in many ways and in some respects have more 
wisdom than many a woman of 40 therefore have no excuse. 

. . . I am sorry the doctor you were all so attached to is dead, but 
glad that he is no longer there to allow you to dance! Ethel how 
can one take such trivial things so seriously! Look at me; I too was 
young once and often thought how good it must be to abandon one- 
self, undeterred by other considerations, to the physical intoxication, 
the blood-stirring, cunningly-wrought rhythms of dancing. But as it 
so came that I was not allowed to dance I never made a hardship 
of it and here are you in despair, at missing a few balls!! Oh! 
Oh! Oh! ... 


July 24, 1878. 

(In English) . . . Letters are such poor things (though dear kind 
things) as one always says less or more than one means. You mustn't 
then take it too seriously when I wonder at your passion for physical 
amusements. I can quite understand it, though I never had a share 
in these pursuits, but what I couldn't help being troubled at was the 
importance you gave to half a year's sacrifice of these games, danc- 
ing, riding, etc. All you say about your being a doll filled with sawdust 
and all that is rubbish of course, as you very well know, and I won't 
have you blaspheme in that way; but what I clearly see is that you 
must have even more musical gift than I thought till now, as it could 
develop itself under so difficult circumstances. I always fear if you 
once give the devil of games your little finger, he'll take your whole 
hand without that you get conscious of it, and your physical nature 

Impressions that Remained 

will swallow your spiritual nature. . , . About the parties your 
mother likes you to go to, you could make her understand, surely, 
that you daren't lose your time (oh! what a precious thing is time!) 
in that shameful way idle people do. Say what you like, but have the 
energy without which talent comes to nothing. As Heinrich always 
says, talent is above all things a gift of character, and he is right. 
(In German) The other day when I gave him a very mitigated ac- 
count of your proceedings he got quite sad and thoughtful, shaking 
his head and saying: "I don't know that our little Ethel will come to 
much if things go on like that." And he thinks so highly of you, my 
child! . . . 


Arnoldstein, Villach. 

August 14, 1878. (In English) My dearest Ethel, I believe I left 
you rather long without news, but darling, only think that at Vilden 
I was with a sister my only sister that I had not seen for two years! 
How much to recapitulate, how much discoveries to make, how 
much to look and hark at, how much honey to suck, how much to 
pat and kiss and what else! We went on chattering, though that is 
not the right word, the whole day and had a good time of it! and 
I have grown prouder than ever of this sister. O Ethel what a poor 
earthly, dusty creature I feel near her, yet this best of all women 
loves me and I feel as if this love could prevent me of growing wicked 
and help me even to get better. Darling, it's no use trying to make 
a picture of her; I could only enumerate certain qualities and par- 
ticularities of her, and you best know how very far that kind of 
description is of a real characterisation. What I best would like to 
say of her is what Portia says of the star, when she goes home with 
Nerissa: "So shines a good deed in a naughty world/' Darling, you 
know what we mean by "Einheit" unity I suppose you call it 
well, I never met a person whose personality had such a unity, such 
a perfume of pjerfect harmony. And then, what makes her so beauti- 
ful in my eyes, she has won "the peace that passeth all understand- 
ing/' that we, you, my Ethel, and I, aim at; and this peace wraps 
everyone in its sweet shade that approaches her; it seems not so un- 
attainable as you said in that letter of yours you felt it to be, so that 
I begin to hope it for myself and you. Ethel, I do feel quite incapable 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

of describing this sister to you yet I should so much like to give 
you a "taste" of her, as I am quite superstitious in respect to her, and 
really do believe only a glimpse of her must work wonders. I wish 
you knew her, then you would see what a doll filled with sawdust I 
am compared to her; and though I hope you wouldn't leave of liking 
me you would venerate her. 

Another pleasure I had in Vilden was Brahms. He lives on the 
other side of the lake and we spent an afternoon with him. (In 
German) I never saw him in kindlier mood; he showed us five new 
songs and a Motet he wrote in memory of poor von Holstein. He is 
sparing of words, this remarkable man, and often gives an impression 
of dryness; but every genuine experience of his turns into gold within. 
What exquisite emotion is once more enshrined in this piece, what 
ripeness in the contemplation of life and death! and at the same 
time the whole is expressed in terms of pure music. A real, joy-giving 
work of art. Henry privately copied it (a secret, mind! or else woe 
betide us! ) and I know it nearly by heart; thus we carry it about with 
us, safely hidden in the deepest depths of our drawers and souls, and 
are so happy about it. Nothing is comparable to this delight in the 
fine work (im schonen Wirken) of others this pure, calm, admir- 
ing contemplation of beauty, detached from all personal striving; 
nothing is more soothing, emancipating, beneficent; x and that my 
Heinrich can do this, can so utterly get rid of himself in such mo- 
ments, is one among the many things that make his worth for me. 
There are so many who in their ardent hunger for their own develop- 
ment never achieve this quiet forgetfulness of self; how much they 
are to be pitied! . . . 

I can imagine how it amuses you studying the Liebeslieder with 
those automatons; it must be like striking sparks from flint. . . . It's 
not that there are so many faults in your counterpoint, but it sounds 
so awkward and as if ... it had rather bored youl You must first 
learn to find it amusing work! 


September 29, 1878. (In German) . . . I look back upon this sum- 
mer with so much happiness; being together with my splendid sister 
has left a warmth, a deep resonance in my soul that nothing can take 

1 losend, erlosend. 

Impressions that Remained 

away; and the good time with my mother, combined with counter- 
point, and watching the dear, gentle cows browsing among the green 
fields . . . what sympathetic memories! 

Yesterday was the loth anniversary of our wedding day; think how 
old we are, 10 years married, and thank God as full of joy in each 
other as we ever were! It is strange after such a lapse of time to feel 
so young, as though on the brink of life in which one has already 
swum so far. Many things have come differently to what I hoped 
for; even when I was engaged my fondest dream was . . . children. 
I remember once in those days taking a child on to my lap with a 
strange feeling of emotion, and when Heinrich petted it I thought 
to myself how well it would be with me some day. But it was not to 
be, and I have learned that the happy have plenty of spare strength 
which they can and ought to devote to renouncing cheerfully even 
that which is best and most beautiful. . . . 


Dresden: March 1879. 

(In English) ... I know you oh! so well now, and I have the 
feeling as if your coming life was spread before my eyes not in 
its details of course, but in its colour, its key, and as if I saw a 
deep sunshine and a calm, serene atmosphere reposing on it. Bless 
you my child. . . . (In German) Yes, the doctor does give hope; 
after a short easy cure next summer all may yet come true! I thank 
you for sharing this time with me, this longing to call a child my 
very own. Till that happens, and for my part I dare no longer hope, 
tell yourself that this much you have done for me wakened in 
me a mother's tenderness such as I never felt before in this world 
except in dreams. During those bad days, when it was given to me 
to comfort you and hold you to my heart and dry your tears, the 
moment was both sad and happy, for I thought to myself: What 
must it be if that lot should be mine, the one I long for! Yet how 
good is this, and how I love this other child of mine! . . . 


Dresden: March 1879. 

(In German) ... O my child, cheer up about it all; you repented, 
and God, the kind God of Love, asks no more of us! ... 


Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

In the train I read Adam Bede (but for that the thought of your 
trouble would have worried me all day) and I was in a good mood 
for appreciating its beauties that fine fellow Adam, and the har- 
mony in Dinah that cannot but take hold of one even though she 
speaks another language than ours, and deals in conceptions that 
have not our sympathy. How beautiful harmony is, no matter from 
what source it springs! . . . Once more, do not trouble your head 
about all that past business. My child, in this burning love for 
what we think good and right let us remain deeply linked to- 
gether, as in other things, for ever and ever. I will always warn you 
if I think you need it, and if you see me falter or fail you must 
help me. And if that is not a lasting bond I don't know what 
is. ... 


May 25, 1879. (In German) I feel sometimes as if the happiness 
bestowed on me were almost too great, as if I were spoiled by Fate; 
and yet when I see Julia, to whom a second child will so soon be 
born, I stretch out my arms for more happiness, have visions of 
that which I long for as if it had already belonged to me, and must 
come back again. But I do not feel it as a pain, my darling, or only 
sometimes; generally I even enjoy the faculty of comprehending 
the joys I know not, and find compensation for what is denied me 
in this intense realization of what I miss. . . . How I thank you 
for calling me Mother; do you know you have helped me, for since 
I have you I bear it more easily having no child of my own. Thank 
God that there is such a thing as love on this earth now don't 
add this time "and hunting"! . . . Good-bye Hebstes Weibliches 
(untranslatable; means "the one I love best of the female sex") 
whose name is written deep down in my heart close to Hem- 
rich's! . . . 


Graz: June 14, 1879. (In German) ... I cannot understand why 
you should wish X to be fond of you; if one is really loved by the 
people that matter how can one care two straws what others, how- 
ever admirable and interesting, feel for one? ... I fear it is love 
of conquest! Beware, Ethel, of that trait in you. And if you are so 
bent on conquest, why not put your energy into conquering your 

Impressions that Remained 

little weaknesses, and when you have to do without what you want, 
accept the fact with a cheerful countenance? ... I cannot under- 
stand you in this whole affair, for "understanding" means, surely, 
that one would feel or act similarly under the circumstances and 
that I cannot achieve. (In English) O my child . . . this tendency 
of yours to be influenced by what is nearest! . . . and I see so many 
pencils stretched out to write upon the blank pages of that book so 
dear to me called Ethel! . . . Keep fast to me, near me, in spite 
of them; I can never let hold of you! 


Graz: September 21, 1879. (In German) . . . What you find 
"amusing" in the butterfly you describe, however charming, I can- 
not understand. Don't you see how unpleasant it is, this playing 
with feelings that ought to be taken seriously ... (or possibly 
working oneself up into imaginary states of mind) all this misuse 
of good energy, of fine words, of the gentle physical expressions we 
call caresses? . . . One would imagine these things ought to be 
used sparingly; is one to find it "amusing" if they are carelessly, and 
perhaps worse than carelessly expended? 

September 24. (In German) ... I wonder how you would like 
Julia. What you think me so rich in, instincts, she does not possess 
at all. In a certain sense she is lifted high above the region where 
children of nature have certain things in common. For instance her 
feeling for the baby is ... prophetic chiefly! her eye rests upon it 
with most affection when she has just been looking at its 5-year-old 
little sister, because she is saying to herself "it will be like that some 
day." The sense of deep belonging-together with the new-born 
child, of unconscious tenderness, the joy of feeling this little being 
dependent on one, all this is nothing to her; she puts it on one side 
in a manner not given to me. But in other directions she has ac- 
quired a freedom in loving, suffering, and understanding, before 
which I bow down in shame. And what a heavenly absence of 
egotism! you never hear her speak of herself, and every one who 
talks to her is persuaded of his own exquisite importance though 
she never uses the conventional methods of the world. But this ex- 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

penditure of kindness and sympathy fatigues her, and she flies the 
company of others rather than seeks it. Both of them wish to live 
for themselves and the family only, and when they do associate 
with other people, it never gets beyond intellectual relations. They 
are kind sympathize and awaken sympathy but never embark 
on an intimacy that might fetter. What they demand above all 
things is ... freedom. Intercourse with others makes Harry posi- 
tively ill, but no one who has any dealings with him imagines that 
he could possibly be that person! . . , 

We have had trouble about the baby; the wet-nurse, such a nice 
little "mare/ 7 lost her milk and had to go. O Ethel, she flung her 
arms round my neck sobbing, poor little thing, and when the sub- 
stitute came hung over the cradle crying; she loved that child, and 
had forgotten her own over it; and that is the detestable part of 
this wet-nurse business. . , . 



September 25, 1879. (In English) . . . What I wonder at is to 
hear you always judging my standard as higher than yours, and to 
see you still sticking to yours. In that respect, then, you have no 
ambition, for else how could you bear the thought of having a 
smaller and poorer view of some of the most important things of 
life? Your sister's judgment may be more sensible, founded as it is 
on what she thinks you are, than mine, which is only founded on 
hopes. (In German) But if the least alive thing in nature, crystal, 
can bud with new crystals, why should not the most alive thing, the 
human being, suffer change, and suddenly or gradually see 
things in a new light? Has such a thing never happened, and may 
I not cling to such a possibility to quiet and comfort myself? Have 
you never noticed that in people otherwise thoroughly cultivated 
there is sometimes one spot in heart or brain that seems untilled, 
where nothing, or only weeds, grow? And hard by are exquisite 
flowers. Do you remember, once when we were speaking of mar- 
riage, I made some such remark about you? "You have yet to learn 
to feel on this subject," I said, more or less; "these views you are 
expressing are not real living ones, they are the superficial result of 
experiences you think you have made. You don't feel the coarseness 

Impressions that Re?nained 

(das Rohe) of what you say on these topics, because it isn't a ques- 
tion of your feeling anything at all; you are merely constructing, 
putting this and that together/' And I would say the same thing to 
you today, when I find myself obliged once more to go over ground 
I thought we had left behind us for good and all! Ethell like Penel- 
ope I will never weary of re-doing the stitches so sadly unpicked; 
I will always hope and believe that you can never fall short of the 
only way of looking at life that appears to me thinkable for a being 
like you. 

"Moge Jeder still begliickt 
Seiner Freude warten; 
Wenn die Rose selbst sich schmuckt 
Schmiickt sie ouch den Garten." 2 

This childish verse is full of the deepest wisdom. 

The expression "Plan of Life" exactly marks the difference be- 
tween us. You are full of plans of a most decided character; I never 
have any, and it has always appeared to me that one should have 
none, that all one should try for is to develop one's powers to the 
full ... to make all one can of oneself, to "adorn" oneself in the 
noblest sense of the word. I want to see you less preoccupied with 
the future, less hungering after fruit that has yet to ripen, more 
lovingly immersed in the beautiful, rich present hour that is yours. 
. . . Greet your sister. Would that she held me in less high estima- 
tion but backed me up betterl What a quantity of things yet to be 
done! . . . what a quantity of things you always have yet to dol I 
wonder, and I say it without irony, how in the midst of such a tur- 
moil you can keep the power of listening to the still small voice and 
catching its delicate vibrations. Strange how much you experience 
I how little! and yet it seems to me I have a rich, rich life. . . . 
Good-bye my child, on the 3061 we will hold high festival. 

October 9, 1879. (In German) . . . How can you think I wanted 
you to take pains to fall in love with someone! Nothing is farther 
from my wishes, and that you have no inclination in this direction 

2 "Calmly and contentedly let each await his joy; in adorning herself the 
rose adorns the garden." 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

troubles me not at all; on the contrary I look upon it as a healthy 
trait compared to the sentimentally-expectant state of mind of our 
German girls. But that you should nevertheless think of marriage 
is more than I can understand and there was a time when you 
were happy at feeling that marriage on such lines would be impos- 
sible to you. How proud I was of that victory! now it is all over 
and done for! That you say things out so honestly and call them by 
their names I love in you, but I fancy you are wrong in thinking 
that what one might almost call this mapped-out, all-round ambi- 
tion of yours is usual and normal. To be able to follow one's in- 
stincts, unhampered by trammels of any kind, is a happiness so rare 
and exquisite that I, who had neither the energy to fight for my 
own freedom nor the possibility of putting that $ort of thing 
through, could often envy you. But this field of ambition a legiti- 
mate one since it is a question of real power, which is inseparable 
from ambition in a certain sense is not enough for you, and here 
you are, thinking of adopting a Plan of Life that shall enable you 
to satisfy countless other ambitions on other fields! It is this in- 
satiability that alarms me so and that I can't go with. Surely it is 
worth while pausing and asking yourself whether it would not be 
wiser to curb this tendency, instead of merely registering that you 
are thus fashioned. Ethel, you say I must not forget in associating 
with you that we are different, that what satisfies me would not 
satisfy you or rather, as you yourself modestly put it, that you 
are "not good enough for what would make me happy/* I recog- 
nize the difference of our natures so clearly that I don't really want 
you to marry at all, believing you to be one of those natures that 
require no completing, that need not lose themselves in another in 
order to find themselves; what is more, you are strong enough to 
stand alone and have a right to say you intend to mount guard over 
your own development and live for yourself. Thus marriage seems 
to me no necessity in your case, but before I would allow that never- 
theless you ought to marry, as a matter of fact merely because you 
haven't enough money, I should have to give up my best faith in 
you, and I can't do that yet awhile! . . . 

One last word I must say. You are cleverer than I in many ways, 
but I have one advantage over you that I have been in existence 
11 years longer, and have looked on at life for 11 more years than 

Impressions that Remained 

you. And this experience I have made in myself; that as you grow 
older the number of things which impress you, which you know in 
the depths of your heart to be worth striving after, grows less and 
less; and that on the other hand the passion and respect for what 
has retained its value increases. This experience I shall see you 
making some day! ... I believe it ? because I desire it. ... (In 
English] Trust me, trust me 7 my child; I can but love you better 
every day that good love becomes older; when I speak the hardest 
I feel the softest, believe me, and am fondest of you when I scold 
you! . . . 


December 30, 1879. (In English] . . . There you are, perfectly 
happy in the house of the excellent Fiedlers who carried you off 
after knowing you just 3 days! and though I am pleased I marvel 
again how that all rushed so quickly upon you, you little steamboat. 
What a talent to make friends you have, and to jump into relations 
which to assimilate myself to I should want months! I didn't tell it 
you yesterday because really it is too childish, but I do feel jealous 
about the gladness and comfort you have in that house and which 
I can give you, things being as they are, so rarely in that opulent 
form which is so becoming to your health, my poor child! I seldom 
envy rich people but I do envy Fiedlers in this case . . . and I had 
nothing to give my child but my poor love no, my rich, rich love 
and a little sadness to accompany it! I would like to have you 
near me, telling me that you feel happiest of all with 

Your old Mother. 

You made I suppose the acquaintance of that nasty S ; I wonder 
how he pleased you. Can you understand that Joachims allow such 
a man to be intimate with them? What a pity that dear Joachim is 
so week, so feeble! . . . 

January 6, 1880. (In English) . . . O darling, if I could only make 
you understand that I do not grudge you the affection you feel for 
that kind Mary Fiedler and her for you; if it seemed so, make those 
"damned" letters responsible for it, please! only that for one like 
me, faithful and heavy to a perhaps exaggerated degree, who al- 


Germany and TIDO Winters in Italy 

ways had difficulty of giving a newcomer the place in her heart that 
was held by an old friend, it seems hard to see the friend, the most 
cherished of all, so easy in giving and accepting affection, and ap- 
parently always craving for more for only where a need is does 
its satisfaction come so very easily. . . . 


February 4, 1880. (In English] ... Of course I forgive you my 
child. I know that in the same moment you do or speak wrong, the 
repentance springs up in your heart, so how could I not forgive? 
But I wish, I wish you could learn to subdue your rather wild na- 
ture so that the good and mild sides would not come out only at 
second thoughts! . . . The things I went through yesterday were 
hard to bear and I am wearied and sore of heart. If Henry were 
not such an angel what a poor creature I would feel; he is my bless- 
ing and my rest. My poor mother is in such a state of irritation, full 
of the old torturing King Lear feelings; she thinks herself loved less 
than formerly, and this is mixed up with so much old suppressed 
sorrow that one must have the greatest pity and forbearance. When 
she is as she is now she cannot support the sight of other people 
intimate with us can't realise and understand it. That's why I 
ask you not to come, darling, till perhaps Monday. . . . 

(Evening] It will comfort you to hear things go better now; poor 
old King Lear is quieted again, and feels she tortured herself un- 
necessarily; still, as I know her too well, I still think it better not 
to come before Monday, my poor little one! The pity I felt for 
her yesterday and to-day is indescribable. Many things in her biog- 
raphy help to explain what else would nearly seem symptoms of 
madness, so utterly beside herself can she get. ... I suffered tor- 

Oh . . 


March 1880. (In German} ... My father goes away tomorrow 
... he is too old to educate, and as I can't force him to be nicer 

s The groan in Brahms's Ballad Eduard. 

Impressions that Remained 

to you, and also think it more dignified in you not to expose your- 
self to his unfriendliness, don't come till the evening, darling. Be- 
sides which he is here for such a short time that I ought to devote 
myself entirely to him. If I hold back and am different to you under 
such circumstances, can I possibly help it? Coine at 7! such a good 
meal will I give you! (in English) and bring your violin, and well 
make a good fight against all the blue devils of this world. Come 
into the garden, maid come into my parlour and right into my 
heart, where there is love enough, if that can help. Come and be 
welcome to a little nice ham, and omelette, and a new volume of 
Bach, and an old , 


Wiirzburg: March 1880. 

(In English) ... If you knew how it distressed me once more to 
see my old mother unkind, unjust and unreasoning, just with you, 
my Ethel, of all people in the world, and to go off on this journey 
with her was no comfort just then! We slept in the train, but once 
I work up in terror, as I feared I had shrieked "Ethel" in a horrible 
dream in which, entering our little dining room, I saw my mother 
and you on two chairs, she almost swooning and you bathed In 
tears! But as so often happens it was only my heart that had 
shrieked. I feel it working away at every new little shock and hope 
I shall have quiet and peace here. . . . [NJB. She was at Wiirz- 
burg, consulting an obstetrician.] It is curious to think of this ever- 
lasting battle with sterile Nature, trying with art and cunning to 
force from her what she will not give of her own free will she 
who is otherwise such a spendthrift! My old mother wishes me 
good as hard as she can; if she could give me a child in bringing it 
into the world herself, I think, old and worn as she is, that would 
do it. Yet I never can open my heart to her, never tell her how I 
yearn for a baby. I shrink to speak of all that with her, which is an 
ingratitude, but we differ too much in our way of naming and feel- 
ing and "taxing" things. If I lived with her I should be lonely, yet I 
love her and thus I suffer. . . . Go and see after my lonely hus- 
band! Thursday I have thee again my darling. . . . 

(Later.) The doctor was there, says I can be helped, and I come 
back in the spring. My heart is light; I learn to hope again! . . . 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 


Verona: April 10, 1880. 

(In German) ... I won't dwell longer on this wonderful place 
lest I sadden you, poor little Tannhauser! But listen my child; to- 
day I said and swore to myself that you shall see it all! we will not 
always dissuade you from letting your thirsty eyes and soul drink 
in all this beauty; and believe me, one loses nothing by waiting; on 
the contrary one is storing up receptivity. 

My child, I am so thankful, so grateful that things are as they 
are between us, and at the thought that nothing can ever change 
this wonderful sense of belonging together. Well for us that we 
have each other! Though you sometimes distress me, and I you, 
down in the depths the essential is so safe, so real and like all 
real things can never pass away. . , . (Later.) Your second letter 
has just come; Ethel! as if you do not always belong to me wherever 
I may happen to be! you, who have so great a part in me you, 
my child, my friend, my comrade! . . . 


Florence, April 17, 1880. (In German) ... I met Frau Hilde- 
brand today at Julia's. Nothing is less favourable for purposes of 
observation than being surrounded by members of your own fam- 
ily old friends of the person in question while you yourself 
have known and been known by that person in effigy for ever so 
long. Animals when first they meet sniff each other a little and at 
once find out all that is necessary; we humans put out cautious 
feelers, think this and fancy that to ourselves, and are no wiser than 
before. When I say "we" I except you, little seven-league-booted 
one, but now don't go and imagine I say this in wicked irony I 
who talk about you to Julia at her special request nearly all day! 
Send your Cello Sonata quick, quick; she wants to hear something 
of yours. . . . 

Florence: April 20, 1880. 

(In English) . . . Your last letter made me sad, not only because 
of your seediness, but because of your depression, so different from 


Impressions that Remained 

what I hoped and believed. (In German] My child, what has be- 
come of the calm, steady mood of your first letters, the sense that 
we are together though separated, the all-round steadfastness? Is 
what is best and strongest in you to take the form of words only? 
am I to wait for ever for the pedal-point "the note that sounds 
so softly, but can always be heard by those who listen for it In se- 
cret"? Is it always to be thus with you: ''revelling high as heaven, 
saddened unto death"? From one year to another I look to see you 
getting older, but, O wild little stag, the horns I keep hoping you 
have rubbed off once for all grow again and again, and vainly I 
seek for traces of the true wisdom you have so much platonic af- 
fection forl . . . My mother, so Julia says, regrets her Leipzig aber- 
rations and puts it down to the fragmentary, idle life she leads when 
with us. She is very dear and kind to me, but we never refer to that 
time it is best not to. ... 


Florence, May 2, 1880. (In German] . . . Hildebrand is doing a 
profile relief of me which takes up a lot of my time, but of course 
I am delighted and as proud as a peacock. The best part of it, how- 
ever, is the intercourse with the delightful man himself. What with 
great cleverness and fineness, simple direct manners, and natural 
charm of intelligence, he is one of the most attractive of men. As 
for her, one can sum it up thus: that though she is a dilettante in 
many ways I imagine her a great artist in loving. ... X has sent 
me a horrible sketch of you; it was kindly meant, and touched me 
greatly, but . . . God in His wrath made him take to drawing! By 
the by if you see my fat brother in Dresden don't let him know 
how often I write to you; the poor fellow is a martyr to jealousy. 
Tell me if you like his boy . . . and the rest of the family. . . . 

I am thankful when there is a day of rest at home; not that we see 
so very much, but that little is too much for rne; I get tired of en- 
joying when I only feel and don't understand. But I am making 
progress in an amateurish way and getting to know whether I am 
really admiring a thing myself or merely standing before something 
admirable; if the latter I steal away quickly. ... Of all this, how- 
ever, you, extraordinary being that you are, forbid me to speak, but 
it is permitted I hope to mention Hildebrand's new group, for 


Germany and Tizo Winters in Italy 

whenever I think of It a sort of shining joy floods my soul. You 
know how I have always admired his work, especially the Sleeping 
Shepherd-Boy, but this group fills one with the sort of religious 
reverence that only perfect works of art inspire. You have no idea 
of the beauty of the young Bacchus the languid perfection of the 
body, supported by a comfortable-looking, not at all revolting old 
Satyr beauty that makes one think of one's best possessions, the 
C Major Symphony of Mozart for instance. Surely Hildebrand 
must soon win round his last opponents; can anyone dare to go on 
picking holes after this, or deny that here is an irresistible art-force 
before which one must do homage In a word, a master? . . . 

Please construct for me a suitable message to Frau ; I can't 
think of one myself but you'll hit on something . . . (It's quite a 
speciality of yours) .... I am glad I did not come to Italy sooner; 
that much one may say, mayn't one, without raising a storm? . . . 

Berchtesgaden: July 30, 1880. 

(In German] . . . We are having a difficult time with poor M -, 
and perhaps being with us is not what I hoped it would be for her. 
I had fancied that seeing people as absolutely happy as we two are 
with our work, our beloved music, might show her that this way lies 
salvation for stricken souls such as hers; but now I wonder whether 
on the contrary the spectacle does not depress her, for her talent is 
a poor bird with crippled wings that has forgotten how to sing, and 
I sometimes fear will never learn it again. The few hours I have to 
myself I ravenously devote to Bach's Choral Preludes; and some- 
times, when the unutterable peace comes over me that the contem- 
plation of beauty, the losing onself in the soul of an artist like 
Bach, brings with it, I am almost frightened to think in what vast 
measure this highest of all joys has been given me compared to 
poor M thirsting in the desert! My life is so strangely happy that 
I even question whether I have the right to help one so unhappy 
whether I can call forth in myself what is necessary to the compre- 
hension of so much suffering. Often and often I feel thus when with 
M . There is the whistle of the train that brings Brahms and Frau 
Schumann . . . good-bye! 

Impressions that Remained 


September 22, 1880. . . . After untold suffering L brought her 
baby into the world ... to see it die at once! How terrible that 
must be, Ethel, and yet ... I still long and long nevertheless! 

From Myself to My Mother 


Salomonstr.: October 19, 1878. 

. . . On Thursday (the next Gewandhaus concert) such an event 
takes place the 5oth anniversary of the day Frau Schumann 
made her debut (as a child of 8) in the Gewandhaus! She is going 
to play nothing but his things of course, and it will be very glori- 
ous. The whole place is to be decorated, the floor one mass of 
flowers, etc. She, poor woman, is naturally in an awful state of mind 
about it, wrote such a touching letter to Frau v. Herzogenberg say- 
ing: "You understand how painful it will be on such an occasion as 
this to be the object of general attention 7 '!! After this is a party, at 
Frau Frege's, where she, Joachim and his wife, perhaps Brahms, 
Madame Schwabe and others will be. I am looking forward to it 
much and wonder if Frau Schumann will remember me, though on 
such a night I shall of course not put myself forward in any way. 
For Frau Schumann's sake I shall be heartily glad when it is all over 
if she can bear it is very doubtful and do think it's cruelty to 
animals, and yet one couldn't do less. . . . 

From Same to Same 


October, 1878. 

. . . This has been a great week on account of the Frau Schumann 
festival. It went off most gloriously. The woman surely never played 
as she did last Wednesday at the rehearsal, and above all last 
Thursday ,in the concert. Thanks to the death of the Concertmeis- 
ter's wife's uncle, I got a ticket just under the piano. The Saal was 
beautifully decorated, with trophies, and all round the room laurel 
wreaths with 1828-1878 therein, really very pretty. One most suc- 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

cessful idea was selling little bouquets on the stairs, to be thrown at 
Frau S. as soon as she appeared. When she entered, from every cor- 
ner of the room showered flowers. She did not in the least expect 
it; whichever way she looked she was smothered in them. I never 
saw anyone look so delighted in my life; round about the piano they 
lay a foot thick and she and Reinecke really had to dig a pathway 
and a clear space round the stool. She played too exquisitely, such 
fire and pathos, and looked so beautiful at the same time in dark 
red velvet with a long satin train. The two Miss Schumann's sat be- 
hind me and remembered me very well. I was so pleased and then 
great moment just as the symphony was beginning, in came 
Frau S. from the artists' room and sat next to me!! I was too shy to 
remind her of my own existence just then, but love to think I sat 
near her on that great night. After the concert Lisl came down to 
meet me in the Saal (she had sat in the gallery) and fairly took my 
breath away with her loveliness. I had never seen her really "dressed 
up" before, and simply say I never saw anything like her in my life. 
She was in dark red striped velvet and satin with (pro tern.) an er- 
mine tippet round her neck; her hair seemed strahlend * and she 
wore a slender wreath of some flower single-leaved, white and 
striped with dark red; in German they are called Vatermorderll 5 
Such a painful piece of Teutonic realism. I wore my light green, and 
created, as you may imagine at least the dress did a tremen- 
dous sensation at Frau Frege's, whither a happy few repaired. Frau 
Schumann is staying there, and soon after we arrived she appeared, 
radiant. The love she bears for the happy Lisl is so touching. What 
is it in Lisl that none can resist, old, young, rich or poor? The old 
nurse who nursed me during my illness seemed to love die gnddige 
Frau much in the way Frau Schumann loves her! Late in the eve- 
ning when most of the guests had retired I went up to dear Frau 
Schumann and had a blissful conversation with her. I don't fancy 
she much remembered me at first, though she was so sweet and 
kind, but when I, knowing Lisl had told her of me, said I was Ethel 
Smyth she brightened all over and said: "Ich gratulire! da sind Sie 
in gate Hdnde gekommen" 6 At this minute up came Lisl and put 

* Giving out light. 

5 Parricides, 

6 "I congratulate you! You have got into good hands." 


Impressions that Remained 

her arm round me and said, "Dieses ist mein Pflegekind!" 7 Frau S. 
said, "Wzr waren Nachbarn im Concert aber da wollten Sie gar 
nichts von mir wissen" Lisl said, "Sagen Sie dass ja nichtl Ethel 
war viel zu bescheiden Sie dort anzusprechen." s Frau S. was so 
dear, said she hoped she would see me again, and I kissed her hand, 
feeling rather like the page-boy in Rothraut " Ihr tausend Blat- 
ter im Walde wisst ich habe schon Rothraut' s Mund gekiisst!" Q 
When Brahms comes in January I hope to see more of that grand 
woman. I do envy Lisl her love no I don't! One can't envy Lisl 
anvthing, she deserves all the love a mortal can give her. . . . 

From Myself to My Father 


April, 1879. 

... I still have two more of my Xmas-present rides before me, 
and during the last I obtained an insight into German notions of 
sport I shall never forget. I rode as usual with my two cavaliers (this 
is proper in Germany!) to the race-course, which is a great open 
grassy place about as big as the parade ground in front of Colonel 
Cooke's house, the course being round it, and not very plentifully 
bestrewed with fences that even the keen filly would walk over. I 
noticed a small concourse of horsemen in elaborate get-ups (or gets- 
up! ) at one side, and a hare quietly cropping the grass in the dis- 
tance. In fearful excitement this object is pointed out to me by the 
gentlemen with, "There is a hunt to-day!" I also was much excited 
though I didn't quite see how it was going to be managed. "'Where 
are the hounds?" I ask. They stare at me in blank astonishment 
and proceed to explain that there are none, and eventually I gather 
that two tame hares are kept on the premises and let out about once 
a week; the sport is that one of the riders shall ride after the hare, 
halloing and cracking a long driving whip. The hare of course 
moves slowly on, and the object is for the other riders to tear about 

7 "This is my adopted child." 

8 "We were neighbours in the concert, but she wouldn't have anything to 
do with me!" "Don't say that! Ethel was far too modest to speak to you 

9 "The thousand leaves in the forest know I have kissed beautiful Rothraut's 


Germany and Tvto Winters in Italy 

preventing her from getting off the grass plot into the woods at the 
side!!!!! "If she does get into the woods/' say I, "what then?" "O 
then we go home, and towards evening she comes back and of her 
own accord goes into her hutch where she is shut up again." Did 
you ever hear of anything so absurd? I laughed till I nearly fell 
from my steed and my cavaliers were rather hurt in their feelings! 
However, it is possible, though not probable, that if one had never 
known the other thing this sort of "sport" might be entertain- 
ing. . . . 


From Juliana Horatla Ewing (Aunt Judy) 
to My Mother 


Exeter: May 7, 1879. 

My dear Mrs. Smyth, I got here very successfully, having had a 
good deal in the way of travelling companions a large party of 
Churchills and then a Colonel Cardew who was amazingly chatty 
both about the war and agriculture, and temperance v. teetotalism, 
and the good results of giving tea and coffee to his haymakers, and 
money instead of cider. He was followed by a nurse and baby, and 
by Baby's Mamma and Aunt, who mopped and mowed before it as 
if it were Mumbo Jumbo. 

That one day was lovely, but to-day it is as cold and cheerless as 
ever. Mind you take care of yourself, and get change of air and 
exercise "carriage exercise" in the dose carriage! It is not fit for 
you to play any tricks. I must say I was struck with your needing 
care and told the girls so, as they will probably tell you. It is by 
little cossetings (each of which alone might be done without, but 
the sum of which does what no medicine can) that health slowly 
returns after severe illness. Jenner once said to me: "Try and think 
of your own health for the next seven months, will you?" and some- 
times it is the least selfish plan one can pursue; for it is an effort 
(especially in a large family where everybody else is in normal 
health) to trouble for what one knows would do one good. One 
feels inclined to crawl into a hole and stop there. But one can't 
recover by that process. 

Impressions that Remained 

I got a bright chatty letter from Captain Patten with some most 
flattering accounts of the P.M.O. in Cyprus shedding tears over 
"Jan of the Windmill"; a very nice pat of butter. I hope to en- 
close your Pot-Pourri receipt to-day; I haven't yet got at anything 
for Ethel except Col. Dumford's pamphlet on Iswandala, but I 
don't think she would care for it. I think I must send her a letter 
I got from Mrs. Durnford with some facts. 

Dear Mrs. Smyth, I do not know how to thank you and the Gen- 
eral and your children for the home you give me at Frimhurst. I 
am not ungrateful, only "unaccustomed to public speaking 7 ' in the 
giving of thanks! It has added a great pleasure to the visit to see 
your young ones growing up nicer and nicer. I do like your chil- 
dren ... I am reduced to the classic language of the day . . . 
awfullyl Give them my best love, and all that is proper to send to 
the General. 

Yours very affectionately, 



[NOTE. This was one of the letters 'written when the writer was acting 
as chaperon. All the people mentioned in it were in, or connected with, 
the R.E., and the young men either were, or were supposed to be, ad- 
mirers of my sister Nina. "Rex" i.e. Mr. Ewing, had been posted to 
Ceylon, and though he and Aunt Judy were very fond of each other, he 
did not in the least desire the presence of an invalid wife in that far-off 
spot, nor had she the faintest wish to leave England.] 

Frimhurst, May 5, 1881. 

Dearest Mrs. Smyth, Thank you very much for your kind mes- 
sage. I did not at all like going without seeing you, but I wanted 
to catch Mrs. Jelf who is only to be quite a short time in England, 
and this was taking me up to town on the nth. But your hospitable 
and kind General, who had most amiably pressed me to stay on a 
bit before your letter came, has smoothed out my plans by allowing 
me to ask Mrs. Jelf to come down here and see me for a couple of 

Now I must report on my niecesl Don't you think I must feel like 
a hen with a brood of adventurous ducklings when they offer me 
tandem-drives and saloon-pistol practice? That is chaff. They are 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

very good indeed, and I even induced Violet to take care of her 
cold which was rather bad but is now pretty well gone. 

Now I must tell you that Mr. Hippisley 10 had to go away on 
duty, so Mr. Foster came and brought Mr. Godsell, which de- 
prived me of my little confidential chat with Mr. Hippisley. The 
General was in town that day but he left me with permission to 
ask Mr. Foster to dinner (!). Mr. F. could not stay however. But 
he invited ME to tea with him to see the alterations in the R.E. 
mess and the honorable place they have given to the pictures Rex 
and I presented the Mess with . . . but with such an appealing 
glance of those fine eyes of his towards the young ladies that I ac- 
cepted for the party, on condition that the General would con- 
sent and let us have the carriage. I can hardly help laughing to 
think how guilty I looked and how shaky I felt when I petitioned 
the General on his return, but he gave consent at once. 

I must tell you, for you will be amused, that I am sure the Gen- 
eral suspects that you and I are in mysterious correspondence!! He 
has made several leading remarks, but I have kept your counsel in- 
violate; still I think he and I have now a tacit understanding. Par 
exemple, he has planned a little dinner party for me (by your wish 
I believe) and when we had confabbed about the married guests 
and the dinner, he proceeded to the question of bachelor guests and 
suggested Mr. St. Lawrence. I agreed and with a most guileless 
countenance, I trust, suggested Mr. Foster. To which the General 
replied, "No! we mustn't have the Rivals together!" 

(Saturday.) I could not go on with this yesterday, my spine and 
head were so troublesome all day. At one time I feared we should 
have to give up our expedition, but a dose of Sal Volatile and Soda 
water got the worst edge off my headache, and with air cushions 
and a hot bottle (!) I got through very well, and enjoyed it very 
much. The air here now is something divine and feels like tonic 
and balm in one. 

Well. We drove to the familiar I Lines and Mr. Foster came out 
to meet us followed by Mr. Godsell and they took us over the new 
mess improvements and showed us our pictures in places of high 
honour; and told us, to my keen delight that they had just expelled 
the World by vote from the mess, and showed us all the things that 

10 Later on he married my sister Violet. 

Impressions that Remained 

have been presented since I was there. Then we adjourned to Mr. 
Foster's rooms and had tea, and I must say his surroundings con- 
firm my impressions about him. A very choice little collection of 
books and such nice pictures, and most beautiful eastern curios in 
the brass and pottery and carpet line. Violet (though she was not 
the right one! ) exploded when he left us into: "There is a man with 
something in him!" and it is very true. There is a pretty water- 
colour of his father's place over his bed, but I came no nearer to 
any of the practical information you are wisely desirous to get. But 
I may soon for wasn't it an odd and delightful accident? Mrs. 
Jelf was in the Camp and Mr. Godsell brought her in to see me! It 
seemed so odd that we should meet again for the first time in an 
R.E. hut, in the old Lines we both loved so well. . . . 

Now about our little dinner to-night. Mr. St. Lawrence could 
not come. So the General put it to popular vote at table whom we 
should ask instead, and we all looked at opposite points of the com- 
pass and voted for Mr. Foster, as if he were a perfectly new and 
original inspiration!! I am sorry Mr. St. Lawrence could not come. 
Of course he does not attract me so much as the scholarly and ar- 
tistic qualities of Mr. Foster do, but I liked what I saw of him the 
other day. I haven't a notion which Nina prefers, and as I think 
nothing is so offensive as chaff where there is any possibility of a 
serious sentiment, I need hardly say that we discuss them quite in 
the abstract. She complains that Mr. St. L. is so ugly, which I don't 
agree to, but as she seems to feel personally aggrieved that Fate 
has not endowed him with eagle's eyes like Mr. F. that rather 
scores to his account!! 

Now I think I have told you all about "the Rivals"! By the by 
I did not answer your question as to how I liked the lady I found 
here. To give you a quite straight answer I was not prepossessed 
in her favour. It is indeed a sad story, and I do not wonder your 
pity bubbled over into kindness; but as you ask me, I'll tell you 
frankly that the impression she produces on me is that of a person 
who might become embarrassing, and even mischievous. (I know 
you have asked for my critical opinion for what it is worth! I hope 
you know I should not be uncharitable enough to express it with- 
out being asked.) Her latest billet douoc was to Nina, saying, "I 
must call you Nina/' Nina asked me what I thought, and I hope 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

you won't think I was wrong in counselling her to answer the note 
courteously but shortly, and to take no notice of the suggestion, 
which I think a little impertinent. My feeling is that if she pre- 
sumed with you, you could put her down quite effectually, but that 
the young things might feel it a nuisance to be involved in terms of 
intimacy, which there seems to be no special reason for setting up. 

Don't you always feel the Academy rather a test of acquaint- 
ances? I do not quite like the mental picture of your dear Nina be- 
ing "hailed" by her Xtian name in the Academy by Miss H., with 
possibly a body-guard of the cavaliers whom she seems to have pre- 
sented her London address to as freely as Mrs. Tupper presented 
her cartes de visitel Don't think I am prudish about any little inde- 
pendent and Canadian ways she may have. Details of etiquette vary 
infinitely and she is not a child; but unless one's instincts deceive 
one her mind is not of that bona fides, pure, and honest cast which 
does lift some noble if eccentric individuals as much above the Law 
as St. Paul. I think my feeling is that if one has ties of duty or senti- 
ment to a person of her type, one stands by them in spite of little 
ways one may not like; in Jeremy Taylor's delightful way of put- 
ting things in his prayers: "My friends and my father's friends let 
me never ungratefully despise or neglect") but when there is no 
tie, I always feel it wise to think how one would like a person in 
Londonl . . . and I don't fancy her with your chicks in London. 

What an unmitigated brute I do feel to sit here enjoying your 
hospitality, and backbite a young lady who wants to be intimate 
with you! And you know I may be quite wrong. But my impression 
is that she lacks the two great elements of qualification for satis- 
factory friendship genuineness and mental delicacy. . . . (Don't 
let me in for a libel case!! ) 

My back aches so I must stop. It is the sweetest day to-day, and 
this place does look so lovely. Every breath one draws is a delight. 
Certainly if it is a torment to be so constitutionally, hopelessly, 
neuralgically, barometrically susceptible to climatic influences when 
they are against one, it is an extra sense to revel in heather breezes 
and pine odours and dry air, and feel the pains in one's bones, as 
old women say, vanish like bad dreams. 

Tell Alice her father's solicitude breaks out every morning with: 
"Well. I quite expect we shall hear some news of an arrival in Edin- 

Impressions that Remained 

burgh to-day." He has said this for days past, and we all look a little 
embarrassed and very hopeful! 

By the bye I have not said a word of our two sad departures this 
week. We groan daily! Bob must have great individuality, one does 
miss him so. It is so unnatural not to see him warming his hands 
at the drawing-room fire after dinner! I think the intense hugging 
he gave me at the last moment was somewhat vicarious for lack 
of you! 

My best love to "Alice" (she will think I am the unrighteous 
chastising the ungodly to object to Miss H. calling Nina "Nina"!) 
and thank her for telling me I could not live in Ceylon. As I may 
not, it is well to know there is a good reason. Rex has been so com- 
forting. He sent me a very nice bit of butter the other day by saying 
it was such a blessing "in Emergencies" to have a wise wife! It was 
very soothing. . . . Now I mil leave off chatting! 

Yours very affectionately, 

P.S. - 1 hope the General and I shall be forgiven all the bad 
words we use about Mr. Gladstone. What do his Scotch admirers 
think of matters in the Transvaal? 


Frimhurst: May 13, 1881. 

. . . Oh, I think I must tell you of a funny scene we had the other 
day as a result of our tension on Alice's behalf . . . . 

Scene The Drawing Room. 

Costumes Our best company manners. 

Dram. Persorw - Mrs. Wickham and Mrs. Herries (deafer than 
ever ? poor thing) kindly calling on me, I and the girls, the General, 
and David (bringing in tea) . 

Naturally there were many enquiries for Alice and Mr. Davidson, 
arising out of enquiries after you, and we got through the delicate 
subject very satisfactorily considering that a gentleman was present 
and one of the ladies had to be bawled to. Old Mrs. Wickham was 
still nodding with sympathy, she and the General having drawn up 
knee to knee, and we all looking so exactly posed for a comedy, when 
re-enter David with a telegram. We all fluttered. Mrs. Wickham 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

nodded herself nearly into the General's lap, he put his spectacles 
well out of the way on the top of his head (as I observe he generally 
does when he has anything he is anxious to see clearly) . Mrs. Henries 
smiled and nodded at her mother as much as to say no explanations 
were needed, David grinned blandly, and the dear General tore 
and fumbled at the envelope with anxiety, and then stopped 
drove his hand into his trousers pocket for a shilling and roared in 
stentorian tones of command to David to take it to the man then 
and there. Exit David looking disappointed, and the General began 
again at the envelope, but before he got it fairly opened he bawled 
again to David to stop, as there might be an answer. Then out came 
the telegram and he read it, and then, to our amazement, dismissed 
David with a vigour to which the previous words of command had 
been as nothing, and then fell back in his chair in convulsions of 
laughter. . . . 

Can you imagine the situation when we learned it was a telegram 
from the fishmonger to say he was out of whitebait? and as the Gen- 
eral justly said afterwards, "He's paid a shilling and I've paid a 
shilling and we might have had the whitebait for is. 6d.l" . . . 

. . . You must let me be a little egoistical in the process of letting 
you know how kindly I feel the graciousness of your hospitality in 
allowing me to lay the flattering unction to my soul that I am of use 
to you by staying on with your young ones. My spine is so trouble- 
some that if I were in London I could go nowhere and see nothing. 
And now can you imagine an Earthly Paradise that I could wish for 
better suited to my helplessness and my craving for fresh air than 
this lovely place of yours, where I can move from your comfortable 
old fashioned sofa, and in a few strides (my giant strides!) sit under 
pine trees? where I can see dear Nina and Violet and their friends 
play tennis, and sit among them and not feel out of everything 
without the fatigue of "going to a party," and where I can sketch 
day by day and hear nightingales in the evening without an ex- 
pedition to reach either privilege! . . . 


Frimhurst: June 2 y 1881. 

We are all in very good case and it is very hot, but deliciously 
cool in your drawing-room and the sun draws out all the pine per- 

Impressions that Remained 

fume all over the place. The evenings are glorious. After dinner the 
girls and I squeeze ourselves on to one seat (made by Nina) on 
the cutting and frighten away the nightingales by our unseemly 
yells, for Nina lives in dread of a mad dog and Violet of a cockchafer 
in her hair, and they respectively try to startle each other whilst I am 
eaten alive by gnats . . . ("such country pleasures do we prove") . 


Frimhurst: June 17, 1881. 

. . . The girls were so good over my failing them for the dance. 
I would not for worlds have deprived poor Violet so new to it 
of one of those nice friends' little dances. And indeed I had quite 
looked forward to combining a chaperone's privileges of easy chairs 
and refreshment with some pleasant chats in that familiar spot, the 
Club House, myself. I got up and dressed and was up an hour or two 
and then had to roll back ignominiously to bed! I cannot forgive 
myself even now. . . . Ascot has been very good for me, too!! men- 
tally it has soothed my conscience for having lost them a treat, 
and physically I have had the only thing I am fit for just now, abso- 
lute quiet and silence with just an amusing little chat at the end of 
the day. But I have had a stringent parade of the children before 
my bed on each occasion, and they looked charming. I am sorry 
Violet's dress was not made with a gathered body but still it looked 
very nice. The pink print, which has a gathered body is so very be- 
coming to her. It suits her figure and makes her look so young! You 
will laugh at this as recommendation for her but she is very easily 
made to look five years older than she is. Do you not think so? I'm 
afraid brains, of which she has a very good share, always have a tend- 
ency to age people in youth, though perhaps rather otherwise when 
they become really old. People who think get bent brows and set 
lips. ... I told Violet how Mrs. Jelf admired her (she thinks her 
prettier than Nina) for I have great theories that far more girls 
suffer from doubting their own attractiveness than from vanity, 
especially if they have pretty sisters. 

The dress Nina got in exchange for the rather dreadful print she 
brought down from town is very becoming. They have certainly had 
three very ideal Ascot days and I think the General has enjoyed 
himself very much too, though they do not give a report of him such 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

as Mrs. Byrne gave of her Colonel: "I lose him ... I know not 
where he is! English husbands are so sly. I assure you Colonel Byrne 
... he is a ME-TE-OR!" . . . 


71 Warwick Rd, Earl's Court: July 13, 1881. 
... I know you will be glad to hear that my goods and chattels 
came, that the day was fine, in fact roasting, that the losses, break- 
ages, &c., are on the whole less than one might expect, and that the 
shipping agents did everything, as I think, at very reasonable charge. 
My sitting room here ("the Sunflower room" as it is called from its 
paper, which is less startling than it sounds) does look quite pretty 
though I say it as shouldn't. I have been living in it, sitting on the 
floor among my odds and ends, with a carpenter and a charwoman. 
The carpenter handy but sententious, the charwoman willing but 
absolutely unreliable however I suppose if she'd been bom with 
brains for a Prime Minister she would have preferred the place. But 
she has reminded me of the cook Dr. Johnson dismissed for the rea- 
son that "Madam, she was all wiggle-waggle. I could get nothing 
categorical out of her/" . . . 


Sheffield: October 23, 1881. 

... I have got to a time of life when one feels the tragedy of 
"B A." X1 more deeply than Nina and Violet can do! Life holds 
so much less real affection and accomplished desire than one hopes 
when one is young. But BA/s have a terrible touch of the comic 
at times! Dot 12 has bolted from a most unexpected swain in this 
neighbourhood who has broken loose with all the desperation that 
sometimes characterizes very shy people when they do turn the cor- 
ner! and as I am staying with his aunt (an old engagement not to 
be got out of) I am the prey of brotherly attentions "in vain 
in vain!" I am really very sorry, though as he is 27 I hope he will 
soon recover, and if she could have taken to him you will under- 
stand how I should have loved to see her in a comfortable home of 
her own. But I always do feel one could do anything for a home but 

11 B.A. y a family expression meaning Blighted Attachment. 

12 Her sister. 


Impressions that Remained 

marry! All I can do is to listen to his Cantata! He (prematurely) 
composed one, words and music, which he advised himself to call 
"The Consummation of Bliss." The night before last I heard this 
all through! Since the fatal "No" he is composing one on Ariadne. 
If he sings as Bacchus I don't quite know how I shall bear it I! Don't 
think me a brute, and he is so good and so scientific (the greatest 
possible attraction for her) that I wish . . . well, I wish he were 
someone else! . . . 


All Hallows Evening, 1881. 

... I am staying here with a sister of poor Major Poole the one 
who fell at Laings Neck. His people seem to have been very much 
devoted to him and it has been a terrible sorrow. His mother is very 
old and partly paralysed and has lost her memory. He was her 
favorite son, and yet after she heard of it she forgot it. But she was 
troubled by seeing the tears of the daughters who are at home (one 
of whom was Major Poole's favorite sister to whom he has left all 
his sketches) and she remembered enough to know that it was for 
one fallen in battle, and pulled herself together enough to say, "I 
am very sorry for the parents of that poor young man!" ... It 
seemed to me the most tragic and pathetic thing I have heard for 
long. Old Cetewayo refused to eat for 24 hours after his death, 
which was touching enough. . . . 

If the General does me the honor to read "Daddy Darwin's Dove- 
cot" I hope he will recognise one turn in the workhouse boy's 
letter! . . . 


Sheffield: November 20, 1881. 

Dearest Mrs. Smyth, Your two letters were very welcome and 
very very kind, but I grudge the use of your poor wrist and I must 
thank you off hand for your kindness in putting your approval of 
"Daddy Darwin's Dovecot" into words such full encouraging 
words. . . . 

Of course the problem for the three past years has been with me 
whether I should ever redeem from physical collapse my brain vig- 
our, such as it was. My old doctor up here you know at first believed 
that I never should, and then it was on the strength of his convic- 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

tion that I should, after all ? that he refused to let me risk Malta last 
time. I had to work "D.DD." (looks bad!) very carefully; very 
short continuous work muddled me and brought on headache, but 
I did feel as if I had got the grip of my faculties again, though rather 
like a spring that has lost elasticity and can't be pressed with a heavy 

It is a great pleasure to feel able to follow my metier again, from 
so many points of view. At times it feels as if this hqmeless phase 
of my life would never come to an end . . . and being able to work 
again is a great help over the time. Also I am quite convinced it is 
the only way if at all in which I can ever be of any real use to 
my fellow creatures . . . and it is a great pleasure! 

I am so glad you like my new attempt and are so kind as to tell 
me so. Word-painting is such a pleasure, like playing a game of skill 
to me and I take such minute pains, and cut and polish, that 
no praise is so pleasant, as the flattery that the word-painting has 
fallen artistically on the reader's earsl Caldecott complained that I 
left nothing to an artist and ought never to be illustrated, but he 
has followed me with such sympathy that he has got the local colour 
of this neighbourhood in a marvellous fashion. The bare fact of the 
theft of the House Doves and their recovery at the call of the little 
lad who loved them is true. 

I am busy now trying to do a tale to compete for a Yankee prize 
of 100 Rash, isn't it? I fear there's no chance for me too good 
writers against me! But please wish me well. . . . 

Violet's letters were delightful. I deeply enjoy such home touches, 
as even their scrambling conclusions "Postbag here and the General 
says it must be closed!" ... I can shut my eyes and be in Frim- 
hurst at once! ... I do enjoy Frirnhurst news knowing so well, 
and caring so much for it all. I have a sort of nth Commandment 
that keeps me honour-bound from much talking of the possibilities 
of the future of young people I care for, but other people's love 
.affairs are amazingly interesting! There is for ever the great prob- 
lem of the two truths: (i) that most pain in the relation of men 
and women comes from misunderstanding or misknowledge of each 
other a misknowledge which is sometimes irreparable and that 
therefore the more free and full the intercourse before Gordian 
knots are tied, the better the chance of either perfect happiness 

Impressions that Remained 

or the avoidance of misery; and that (2) intellectual friendship is 
a far more binding and deep-seated tie than a mere commonplace 
admiration and acquaintance and if one person gets the blade 
and the other only the handle of that edge-tool it is a sad business. 
I think I have at last made up my mind as to the only thing to aim 
at but I shall reserve this theory for a letter to Violetl Mean- 
while if I should hear that those 2 dear children are going to march 
with the R.E/s ? an Aunt's best benedictions will not be want- 
ing! . . . 


[NOTE. I add this letter, though of a later date; it -was the last in the 

Taunton: October 19, 1883. 

... I hasten to warn you that I sent the General a copy of Calde- 
cotfs "J a d: ana P es " the other day, and that I have ordered my six 
Andre Verse Books to go to you with my best love a little offer- 
ing in memory of all that dear Frimhurst and your never-changing 
kindness did towards the slow process of giving me back the power 
to work. I never forget it, even when we have not exchanged letters 
for a while; I never shall forget it dear Mrs. Smyth unless my brain 
gives way altogether! . . . When I say I warn you of the books it 
was because I remembered that when I sent you "Brothers of Pity," 
in your haste to be honest you paid Smith for it! . . . 

I have a favour to ask. I am the happy possessor of a small garden 
when I came to it it was a potatoe patch. My friends have been 
so good to me and it is now very full (and things do grow here! ) but 
my soul is set upon polyanthus and my jobbing gardener says: "sim 
as if they be quite out of fashion 'bout here. There was a genTm as 
used to grow 'un but a died some years back/ 7 Now I do so well re- 
member your polyanthus in the long walk, the best I ever saw and 
your own raising from seed. If they still flourish, knowing how poly- 
anthus increase at the root I think perhaps you could spare me one 
or two offsets from the different kinds down the walk. . . . Not if 
you are saving them for any special purpose, but if you can spare a 
few in a mustard tin or wrapped in a little moss or hay in brown 
paper this red earth and reeking climate will soon develop them 
to my delight and in memoriam of the Frimhurst walk. . . * 


Germany and T*wo Winters in Italy 


From Edward Grieg 

Kopenfaagen: April 17, 1879, 

Honoured Miss Smyth ? - This time there are many kindnesses to 
thank you for; firstly for being so charming as to keep your promise; 
secondly for being so charming as to write about it; thirdly for be- 
ing so charming as to send the charming Variations. The one thing 
that is not charming is ... the legions upon legions of mistakes 
in the MS.! There are moments when I feel as if I were playing the 
riot-scene in the Meistersingerl Your permission to correct these 
mistakes "according to taste" is all very fine, but . . . ! 

Well, I am looking forward to the E minor piece, and as punish- 
ment for the mistakes I must insist on hearing the story behind it. 
Such stories have great value for me; I nearly always have them my- 
self, and when not, the background of the picture seems to me to be 
lacking. Our Herzogenbergs will say this is nonsense and with 
reason; but where should we all be without nonsense! Where music 
would be without Wagner? . . . No! in a far, far worse case! 

I send no messages to the Herzogenbergs because I hope to find 
time to write to them today. Good-bye, and, once more, warmest 
thanks for what you sent me and friendliest greetings. 

From your 



Impressions that Remained [ 1 88 1-82 

CHAPTER XXVIII. Autumn 1881 to Autumn 1882 

JL WENT back to Leipzig late that year and have but few recollec- 
tions of the winter '8i- 7 82; moreover at this moment the home let- 
ters, in which a word sometimes fires a train of memory, give out 
altogether. But I well remember that for some time past I had suf- 
fered under a sense that I was not as much to Lisl as formerly, or at 
all events, to use a current phrase, not giving satisfaction. From the 
point of view of work there was no fault to be found; indeed, the 
piles of dated MSS. in my loft bear witness to a period of extreme 
diligence; the trouble sprang from what was unfortunately a salient 
characteristic, my knack of constantly forming new ties. Not that 
she was jealous in the ordinary sense of the word; she knew very 
well that, come who might, no one could oust her from her place; it 
was rather that she was distressed and bewildered by what seemed 
to her indications of a spendthrift moral nature ("ein vergeuden 
schoner Kraft" as she put it) . 

Until we had met, all in laughing at the exclusive Stockhausen 
tradition, Lisl had been really carrying it on less perhaps on prin- 
ciple than because they were a self-sufficing couple; and it is certain 
that but for the two factors I spoke of, my music and her childless- 
ness, I should never have been admitted into the bond. As far back 
as 1880 she had once told me in a moment of irritation that Hein- 
rich sometimes found the menage a trois a trial as well he might 
with such an extortionate third and in face of this all-round in- 
satiability I daresay she asked herself whether I fully appreciated 
the exception made in my favour. Much as they both venerated 
Conrad Fiedler the rapid friendship with his wife had not en- 
chanted her, and now there was an English newcomer to reckon 
with, evidently a remarkable and arresting personality . . . What 
next? In one of her letters there is a fine defence of her own in- 
stincts in these matters, and she never could understand how I, all 
in admiring them, could not change my own. 

Very differently did my mother, a really jealous being by nature, 
treat the subject. Though her contemporary correspondence with 
me has vanished, the most precious bit of her handwriting I pos- 
sess is dated December 1881, or rather that is the postmark, for she 


1881-82] Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 
never dated a letter in her life. A great friend of mine, Captain Hu- 
bert Foster in the Royal Engineers, who came to Leipzig that au- 
tumn, wrote my news to my mother, and after her death he sent me 
her beautiful reply. It is too personal to give here, but the sentence 
I quoted a few pages back is taken from it; my needs, my happiness 
were the weapons with which she fought down jealousy! . . . This 
letter was sent me with a covering note in which the following 
words occur: "Re-reading its contents, I am deeply touched to see 
how constantly your mother thought of you. I had kept it all these 
years, I suppose because it shows such tender regard for you, and 
everything about my friends interests me; but now I think it may be 
a pleasure for you to have it/ 7 Shortly after his visit, a windfall hav- 
ing put me in possession of a few extra pounds, I flew over to Eng- 
land at Christmas for a week on a surprise visit, and although I 
spent two or three days of it with the Garretts, that was one of my 
most flawless reunions with Mother enough time to enjoy being 
together, and not enough to rub each other up the wrong way! 

As a rule I spent Christmas, which means a good deal to Ger- 
mans, in the Humboldtstrasse, and it saddened Lisl that I chose 
that moment to disappear. But on quite other than sentimental 
grounds was another project combated not only by her but by Al- 
oysius; namely my intention, announced to them in the spring, of 
passing my next winter in Italy. 

This decision was taken rather suddenly. Desire for contact with 
other forms of beauty than music, for the South in short, had grown 
and grown till there was no resisting it, and I felt too that having 
worked like a galley slave for four years at theory I should be all the 
better for putting some of it into practice without supervision. 
That Aloysius fought so hard to dissuade me is a touching proof 
that the artistic well-being of his pupil preoccupied him more than 
the inconveniences of her everlasting presence in his house. What 
a pity, he argued, to get out of harness just when one is beginning 
to move freely in it! and he further reminded me that Brahms had 
restudied counterpoint from beginning to end when he was over 
forty. The obvious rejoinder was that I would gladly do the same 
when I reached that age, or even sooner, and I stuck to my guns. 
As for Lisl, being herself devoid of world-curiosity as the Germans 


Impressions that Remained [1881-82 

call it, she could not fathom my state of mind at all. Her motto 
might have been a quotation from Carlyle I came across the other 
day: "Happy men live in the present for its bounty suffices; and 
wise men too, for they know its value/' When a chance of a new 
experience came along she took it, but in the meantime was quite 
happy on her own line of rails; hence these Italian longings were 
looked upon as one more manifestation of an immoderate hunger 
for life the Lebensteufel she so often bewailed in me. So I went 
back to England slightly, very slightly, in disgrace with my best 
friends, and it was settled that if dates fitted in, we were to meet at 
Venice in the late autumn on my way to Florence via Switzerland, 
where I was to be initiated into mountaineering by Wach. 

I did a good deal of music, real music, that summer with the von 
Glehns at Sydenham, and in the course of a projected performance 
in public of something of mine a quartet I think found out for 
the first time, and wrote to Lisl, that English musicians are refrac- 
tory to dotted semiquavers a striking symptom of the go-as-you- 
please theory of life. I remember too that the charming singer von 
zer Miihlen, whom I often met at the von Glehns', told me that 
recently, on his mentioning Lisl and me, Brahms had remarked: 
"My God, children, but those are two musical women tucked away 
in the horrible Leipzig! " This also was passed on to Lisl, but in 
semi-sarcastic vein, for though I was pleased that others should 
know the great man thought so highly of us, his good opinion in no 
wise added to my stature or flattered me personally. And I vicari- 
ously felt the same for Lisl; but to my amazement that incorrigibly 
humble person was quite delighted and thought this tribute a great 
feather in our caps. 

Towards the end of my stay in England the Garretts came to 
Frimhurst. In spite of their arty clothes, the effect of which on 
Papa's mind I had rather dreaded, they captivated even him; and 
what is more, Mother's jealousy was instantly swamped in her ex- 
traordinary appreciation of Rhoda, whom I think she liked better 
than all the rest of my friends put together. A great point in their 
favour with Papa was that they "braided their hair/' as he put it, so 
as to leave the forehead uncovered, instead of wearing fringes like 
his daughters and their friends, which he always maintained re- 


1881-82] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

duced human beings to the level of apes. There was an amusing 
scene at which unfortunately I did not assist. My mother had been 
complaining of the cold in the famous bow-window and the rea- 
sonable Agnes suggested a shawl; but Mother, who though not in 
her first youth was by no means unshapely, replied with some hesi- 
tation that she didn't like shawls "because they hide the figure so." 
Whereupon Agnes exclaimed: "Isn't that rather kind of them?" 
Awestruck I asked how this very characteristic remark had been re- 
ceived, and was relieved to hear Mother had only laughed. 

I sometimes wonder if one's vision of a past incident or a lost 
friend is intensified or weakened by the absence of all written rec- 
ord. Knowing my habits, Rhoda ? who was extremely reserved, had 
made me promise to destroy her letters as soon as read, and I did 
so. In the light of what happened this is a promise I never gave 
again. All I possess of her now is a bit of heather, plucked, after I 
had left England, on Charlotte Bronte's grave, and a little crooked 
battered stone she once picked up on the beach remarking that by 
the time I was forty my heart would look like that! ... It was de- 
cided that they were to join me at Florence the following Easter, 
and in August I left for Switzerland via Newhaven, Rhoda hurling 
a forgotten box of a hundred cigarettes after me as the boat moved 
away from the quay. 

I stopped at Rouen and like many other people was disappointed 
with everything except St. Ouen, till towards evening I climbed up 
the great chalk cliff three hundred fifty feet above the town. It had 
rained all day; the sun was setting, the Seine all red and yellow 
and blue lay at my feet, the new town shrouded in cloud and 
smoke on one side of me, and on the other the old town with its five 
grand churches settled down in an armchair of green and white 
hills. I wonder if anyone will ever see it like that again; but let no 
one who has a chance omit to climb that cliff and try. I left Rouen 
doubting if anything more intense in the way of joy for the eyes 
could be found in Switzerland. 

The Wach chalet in the commune of Wilderswyl was about a 
thousand feet above Interlaken, and though its owners were a thing 
apart, in no way differed from all chalets. There I got to know 


Impressions that Remained [1881-82 

Wach in quite a new aspect and the one I loved best a big boy 
in knickerbockers, madder than any adolescent about mountaineer- 
ing. So impatient was he to initiate his guest that he would have ar- 
ranged our first climb for the day after my arrival but for the gentle 
icy opposition of Lili, who guessed the fatigues of a long journey 
third-class, and insisted on twenty-four hours of rest. 

And now let me ask anyone who from youth upwards has greatly 
loved two things, scenery and adventure, if memory holds anything 
to compare with such a first experience. The Schildhorn is of course 
a beginner's mountain but it gives one a taste of the whole thing 
an unequalled view of "the three Bernese giants/' as it is almost im- 
possible to help calling them, and above all the sonority of perpet- 
ual avalanches one of the most beautiful noises under heaven. 
The boys were then about twelve and fourteen, and there was a 
moment when it seemed the younger was about to receive a thrash- 
ing from his father for collapsing in the snow and declaring, while 
tears ran down his blue little nose, that he could go no farther; but 
who could stand up, or rather lie down, against Wach? On the top 
of that mountain I noticed what was so often to strike me after- 
wards, that in the joy of difficulties vanquished the mind of Faint- 
hearts is miraculously cleansed from all memory of these passing 

Another thing: for my part I have seldom undertaken a big climb 
without saying to myself at some particular stage: "Never again!" 
yet once more safe at home, only one thought possesses you how 
soon funds will allow of another expedition. I explain this passion, 
far the most violent in the way of sport I have ever felt, by two 
things: firstly, as Barres says somewhere, a landscape won by your 
own intense effort has a peculiar grip on you almost a physical as 
well as an aesthetic grip; and secondly there is the danger not only 
to yourself but to companions, who may pay for a false step of yours 
with their lives. And if that is not an intoxicating element in pleas- 
ure I don't know what is! Of danger of course I had no experience 
on that baby mountain, yet a premonition for Wach slipped on 
a glacier and shot down a good way before he could stop himself 
with his axe. Nothing much would have happened in any case, but 
it gave one an idea of the thing. 

I began my career as mountain-climber with a bit of bad luck. At 


1 88 1-82] Germany and T<wo Winters in Italy 
a dance in England, saving a fall of the usual kind in what Lady 
Ponsonby called our ton de garnison neighbourhood where spurs 
were for ever catching in gowns, I had strained one of my knees 
slightly, but felt it for only a day or two. Needless to say it was this 
very knee that was struck bullet-fashion by a bounding bit of rock 
on the up journey, about four thousand feet from the top. In all I 
walked eleven hours with that damaged knee, including leaping 
down the mountain with the leg held stiff, which of course jarred 
the hip, and the result was for the time an end to mountaineering. 
The disappointment only ceased to rankle when for the first time 
I saw the Gotthard and was well on the way to Venice, little know- 
ing what awaited me there. 

To my amazement I was met on the platform by Heinrich only, 
and horror-stricken I learned that Lisl was once more in family fet- 
ters. Not only had her mother suddenly turned up, but also the one 
being who in their youth had slipped through the meshes of Frau 
von Stockhausen's anti-friend net and been tolerated as high-born 
distant cousin a young lady of a certain age, called "Mathilde," 
hitherto on mere cousinly terms with Lisl, but who now at once 
made common cause with my enemy in cold-shouldering the for- 
eign intruder. 

Never had anyone a more disastrous first sight of Venice. I had 
cut short my stay at home on purpose to see everything with the 
Herzogenbergs; what happened was the most humiliating and un- 
successful game of hide-and-seek ever played, it being understood 
that the sight of me drove Frau von Stockhamen into convulsions. 
Four days were spent lurking in corridors, slinking into side chapels, 
jamming down my parasol over my face in gondolas, and so forth; 
till at last, given Lisl's dislike of conflicts and litter helplessness 
as regards the whole situation, I departed prematurely in sorrow 
but still more in anger for Florence. I had thought my mother 
difficult to deal with, but she was sweet reasonableness itself com- 
pared to that beautiful old termagant. 


Impressions that Remained [1882 

CHAPTER XXIX. Autumn 1882 to Christmas 1882 

JLHE ARRIVAL at Florence was rather dismal, for Venetian wrath 
was yet undigested and I had no friends there to welcome me ? 
though plenty in store. Julia > Lisl's sister, lived there, also the Hilde- 
brands (intimates of all my group), and the Fiedlers talked of 
coming later. Meanwhile two things had to be done: (i) choose a 
dwelling-place, (2) pick up an English girl I had promised to look 
after that is, she was to live wherever I did but without our inter- 
fering with each other's way of life. My plan of action about finding 
an apartment was always the same; having taken a "cabman's 
room" in some modest hotel, I selected a street or block of build- 
ings the outlook from the back of which open with plenty of trees 
seemed promising. I then searched on doorposts for possible no- 
tices of "rooms to let" and walked up and down the staircases of 
such houses till I found what I wanted. Having luck almost at once 
in the quarter I preferred, Via dei Serragli, I went off to fetch my 
charge, Amey, the guardianship of whom had come to me as Lisl 
said using a wonderful German expression "as the box on the 
ear comes to the child/' 

Amey was by way of studying painting. I never caught her at it r 
but before we had walked many yards her true career was revealed, 
in that she flew at a policeman and began urging him in wonderful 
French to come with her at once to the market, and arrest several 
old women whom she had seen pouring shot down the gullets of 
geese to increase their weight a usual Italian practice in those 
days. The idea of beginning Florentine life in a police court did not 
appeal to me, and Amey was infuriated at my apparent indifference 
to these horrors; so our alliance was ushered in by a brawl in the 
street followed by her walking off in a rage, to return reluctantly in- 
asmuch as I alone knew where our house was. Poor Amey spent 
most of her time that winter alternately trying to represent in her 
sole person a non-existent S.P.C.A., and fulminating at me for 
merely looking the other way. Otherwise she was a good soul though 
queer-natured. Of course, as we all know, the cruelty to animals one 
is perpetually witnessing is the one flaw in the otherwise perfect 
bliss of living in Italy; and the wondering reply you get to protests: 


1882] Germany and T^o Winters in Italy 

"ma non sono cristianir ("but they are not Christians!") looks as 
if the old Vatican government were the fountainhead of the mis- 
chief 7 as it certainly is of the beggar plague. But what can a passing 
stranger do? . . . 

My room, a fine airy one with a beautiful view across gardens, 
roofs, and "loggie," cost seventeen francs a month! Our landlady 
was a jovial person who began by telling us she hoped we would 
receive our gentlemen friends whenever \ve liked, the significance 
of which remark did not strike me till years afterwards, though I 
remember a shade of disappointment passed across her face when I 
said we had none. We bought our own food and cooked it our- 
selves in a little kitchen fitted with the usual duplicate arrange- 
ments for charcoal fires; and when we were not on speaking terms, 
which sometimes happened, the silent preparation of our respective 
cutlets might have been part of some primeval religious rite, the 
two holes for charcoal being let into a sort of brick altar, and not 
three feet apart. The worst part of the house was of course the sani- 
tary arrangements, and the road to the best effort of that kind on 
the part of the architect the best on our floor at least lay 
through my room. This road was of course impassable in war time, 
a factor which made for peace as far as Amey was concerned. 

Not being Pater or the terrible Ruskin, I will not launch forth 
into ravings about Florence; besides which, my leg being evidently 
in a bad way, enterprise was checked for the moment. Lest the 
dreaded fate of immobility should overtake me, which it soon did, I 
determined to lay in a stock of human companionship, and at once 
went to call on the Hildebrands. They lived outside the Porta Ro- 
mana in a convent at S. Paola di Francesco, the immense ground- 
floor of which had been turned into studios. From the floor above, 
decorated with frescoes by Hildebrand and his friends, and full of 
beautiful things, you got what is perhaps the most famous view of 
Florence, and behind the house was a neglected garden. The fam- 
ily consisted of several children, mostly girls all of them budding 
sculptors, painters, or poetesses and Frau Hildebrand, once a 
celebrated man-enslaver and still gracious and desirable though no 
longer in her first youth. One almost regretted that so much re- 
ceptivity to the touch of life had been finally tamed to domestic 
uses, for nowadays she was rather by way of being fattish and moth- 


Impressions that Remained [1882 

erly on principle. Yet I remember one evening of reminiscent youth- 
ful grace, when after some little domestic festival they all accom- 
panied their guests as far as the Porta Romana; then suddenly she 
danced a step or two down hill among the fireflies, and I saw a 
graceful Bacchante hanging aslant between me and the moon. She 
was a great dear, radiating warmth, kindness, and hospitality, but 
I got on best with him. 

Hildebrand is, I am certain, one of the great artists of all time. 
Lisl was rather shocked at my saying he impressed me more even 
than Brahms, but I think the remark was sound, for there are many 
great composers of modern times, but how many sculptor^ of Hilde- 
brand's stature, I wonder. He was of a serene gay temperament, 
absolutely natural, and I think "a-moral" is the term to express his 
complete detachment, in theory at least, from morality and current 
views on the conduct of life. Children, for instance, should not be 
brought up but left to grow like wildflowers; and the results of this 
principle in his own young family did not appeal to my English 
notions. Lisl once remarked that if he were not upright and kindly 
by nature in fact a good man he would be a very bad one, and 
this he allowed was true. 

There was a queer mixture of simplicity and shrewdness about 
him a lawyer's shrewdness I mean, not the peasant cunning of a 
Rodin, aware of the market and, for all his genius, never forgetting 
it. The public only existed for Hildebrand as a corrective. He used 
to ask what one thought of his statues, and once when I said a cer- 
tain arm looked to me too long, he explained that though as a mat- 
ter of fact it was too short, the remark put him on the track of the 
real error, which was elsewhere; a thing I have often felt myself 
about the judgment of the man in the street the only criticism 
of real value, as a rule, to the artist. He was a tremendous arguer 
and theorizer, and would discourse till all hours of the night on a 
subject like Raumvorstellung for instance (concept of cubic con- 
tent is the nearest English I can find) and its connection with 
plastic art. His talk was so free from pedantry, so luminous, that any 
artist, or indeed any cultivated being, could listen to it with pleas- 
ure, and watch his clear laughing eyes become like pinpoints, as, 
with raised forefinger, he drove his argument home. 

Frau Hildebrand, whose brain was not theoretical, had lived all 


Kboda Garrett and Her Lmk Sister 

1882] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

her life among artists, knew the jargon, and didn't want to be out 
of it. But alas! like all creative minds Hildebrand's moved on, and 
she complained that when after having mastered the latest theory 
she was carefully expounding it to admiring newcomers, he would 
suddenly whirl round and cry out impatiently from the other side 
of the room: "Achl das ist es ja gar nichtf 9 ("That's not it at dll") 
She used to laugh at herself for these cultural yearnings and ambi- 
tions, but to laugh at one's weaknesses and to give them up are two 
different matters. 

Like many "picturing artists" as Germans call them, Hildebrand 
was deeply musical, played the violin and viola, and could transpose 
at sight, much to my admiration, whether from the alto, bass, or 
violin clef, with the greatest ease; but it was impossible to get him 
beyond Haydn and Beethoven, In the same way all he knew or 
wanted to know of English literature was Shakespere and Tom 
Jones? which he thought the finest novel in the world no great 
compliment, for the only other novel he had read was Elective Af- 
finities. And this book he actually had the effrontery to defend, as 
will many a German who knows better. Asked if he considered the 
perpetual reference to that terrible gardening bore of a lover, the 
Captain, as "der gute Mann" (the excellent man) is stimulating to 
the imagination, he would innocently reply: "Why not?" In short 
the author of Wahlverwandschaften is Goethe. As for new books, 
he flatly refused to open one in any language. 

Why I speak of him in the past tense I cannot think, for just be- 
fore the war he was alive and I hope is so still. I went to see them 
when passing through Munich in 1914; he had .been very ill and 
the bounding vitality and loquaciousness of former years were gone, 
but he talked enthrallingly about modern work and said, with Hil- 
debrand simplicity: "Compared to these artists I feel like a mere 
workman" nor I fancy did he wish to feel otherwise. I repeated 
to him a remark of Rodin's, whom he greatly admired with res- 
ervations about its being the office of a sculptor to transcend, in 
the interests of suggestiveness and mystery, the limitations of his 
models; and the old pinpoint look came back into his eyes as he 
.said: "It seems to me nothing can exceed the mystery and sug- 
gestiveness of Nature." 

Some people complain that his portrait busts slavishly copy Ren- 


Impressions that Remained [1882 

aissance work, and on the other hand his treatment of the nude has 
been found classically cold. My own feeling is that everything he 
does is so intensely Hildebrand no matter who his progenitors 
may be, so absolutely free from concession to anything but his own 
artistic vision, that his work must surely be on the very first line. 
For many years taboo in Berlin, because when invited by the All- 
Highest to collaborate in the Sieges-Allee he freely spoke his mind 
on that terrible subject, he is as good as unknown in England; in- 
deed, I think the only originals of his in the United Kingdom are 
the bust of Baroness von Stockhausen I referred to, and a portrait 
in high relief of Mr. Gerald Balfour, which I am told is at Whitting- 

Of the other couple of prospective friends, the Brewsters, I had 
of course learned a great deal from Lisl 7 her deep admiration for 
her extraordinary sister being the main theme of many letters. 1 It 
appeared that these relations of her were superhumans and that 
they lived in an Ivory Tower, knowing not a soul in Florence except 
the Hildebrands. This solitary frequentation was born of the fact 
that once ? in pre-S. Francesco days, Hildebrand found the mysteri- 
ous lady who lived on the floor below them sitting patiently on the 
stairs with a sprained ankle, whereupon he carried her into her 
apartment. Nothing short of that would have done it. I knew that 
Julia Brewster was eleven years older than her husband (who at 
that time was thirty-one) and I had heard about their extraordinary 
views on marriage, which did not commend themselves to Lisl ? 
though, as she often insisted, they lived in a world of their own 
and could not be judged by ordinary staiidards. It appeared that 
they had only gone through the marriage ceremony in church in 
order to avoid wounding the feelings of Julia's family and had 
found it very "comic" at the time especially some incident about 
hassocks which I have forgotten but it was not looked upon as a 
binding engagement. If either of the couple should weary of mar- 
ried life, or care for someone else, it was understood that the bond 
was dissoluble, and there was a firm belief on both sides that no 
such event could possibly destroy, or even essentially interrupt, 
their "friendship" as they called it, founded as it was on more 
1 Appendix, p. 272, No. 4; p. 273, No. 5; p, 276, No. 11. 


1882] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

stable elements than mere marriage ties. "Do not be afraid/' they 
said, "of anything life may bring; face it, assimilate it ? and the gods 
will see you through/' (I may add that such was H. B/s gospel to 
the end, though as the years passed he came to realize there is a 
thing called human nature, and didn't quarrel with it for sometimes 
playing havoc with theories.) 

This much I had gleaned from hearsay concerning Lid's rela- 
tions; face to face with them I soon found out that the real hermit 
was Julia, her husband being rather an embryonic lover of human- 
ity, hitherto accustomed, owing to circumstances, to pay exclusive 
attention to abstractions. As I learned many years afterwards, Julia 
was just then beginning to notice in him a new and strange im- 
pulse to extend a furtive hand to his fellow creatures and thought it 
wisest to offer no opposition. Thus it came to pass that instead of 
being politely warned off the premises as I had half expected, I was 
warmly welcomed in Via de' Bardi. 

My acquaintance with the man destined to become my greatest 
friend began, it is amusing to reflect, with "a little aversion'' on 
my part, although his personality was delightful. Having for years 
had no real intercourse with anyone save his wife, he was very shy 
a shyness like that of a well-brought-up child, which took the 
form of extreme simplicity, as though he were falling back on first 
principles to see him through. In one who was obviously what is 
called an fane & elite this trait was of charming effect, and in spite 
of it he managed to be witty, amusing, and, when he felt one liked 
him, companionable. He seemed to have read all books, to have 
thought all thoughts; and last but not least was extremely good- 
looking clean-shaven but for a moustache, a perfect nose and 
brow, brown eyes set curiously far apart, and fair fluffy hair. It was 
the face of a dreamer and yet of an acute observer, and his manner 
was the gentlest, kindest, most courteous manner imaginable. But 
alas! ... as thinker I found him detestable! Half American, half 
English, brought up in France, he was a passionate Latin, and the 
presence of an Anglomaniac, loud in praise of the sportsman type 
of male, and, what was worse, in love with Germany, goaded him 
into paradoxes and boutades it was impossible to listen to with 
equanimity: such as that Shakespere was an agglomerate of bom- 
bast and bad writing; that Goethe's gush about Nature was posi- 


Impressions that Remained [1882 

tively Indecent; that a work written without de I 9 affectation is 
coarse; that spontaneity is the death of inspiration, and so on. 

His inveterate dislike of everything German was shared, oddly 
enough, by his wife, who, half German, half Austrian, had a Polish 
strain on the mother's side. Julia was the strangest human being, 
if human she was, that I or anyone else ever came across, fasci- 
nating, enigmatic, unapproachable, with a Schiller-like profile and 
pale yellow hair; and though completely under the spell, I knew 
far less of her at the end of my two Italian winters than at the be- 
ginning. The home medium of this extraordinary couple was 
French a fact that deeply impressed Lisl and me; they addressed 
each other in the second person plural, and though evidently the 
greatest of friends never uttered a word in presence of others that 
could suggest anything as bourgeois as affection. Given their turn 
of mind, it may be imagined that the matrimonial angle of the 
Herzogenbergs seemed to them comic, parochial, and slightly redo- 
lent of sauerkraut; moreover Julia spoke of Lisl as one might of 
some charming, very musical woman one had met somewhere and 
would be quite pleased to meet again if not pressed to fix the date. 
I was jealous for my friend, thinking of her uncritical worship of 
this gently critical sister, but the Brewsters were more amused at 
my enthusiasm than convinced that anyone who patted her hus- 
band's hand in public could be a really civilized human being. In 
fact the domestic aspect of life was deemed negligible, and my first 
impression of that household was two dear little fair-haired chil- 
dren, beautifully dressed, to whom, as they slunk out of the draw- 
ing-room, no one said good-night. I believe this attitude was modi- 
fied later; certainly when after many years, during which we never 
met, their father and I came together again, he had become to his 
children what he was, I think, to everyone who knew him inti- 
mately the one person who counted. 

To sum up, the Brewsters came under no known category; both 
of them were stimulating, original talkers and quite ready to discuss 
their ethical scheme, including its application to domestic life, but 
of course only as a general thesis. On the other hand their friend 
Frau Hildebrand, human and natural to a fault, who claimed for 
herself the wisdom of Sancho Panza, would privately maintain 
that all these fine theories must inevitably crumble at the first 


1 882] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

touch of the realities against which they so carefully fenced them- 
selves in a proposition I vehemently disputed, being quite car- 
ried off my feet by the impersonal magnificence and daring of their 
outlook. This readiness to cope with any and every turn of the 
wheel on your own terms went well with my views as to how life 
should be lived but I had never dreamed of courage and love of 
adventure on such a scale as this. 

A few weeks after my arrival, and not to my great regret (for as 
usual it was the woman who at first absorbed all my attention), 
BL B. suddenly decided to go off lion-hunting in Algeria a project 
which his recent mastering of Arabic had perhaps something to do 
with. But of the wiles of Arabs he knew less, and, as we learned 
later, was well exploited, achieving nothing more than once hearing 
a lion roar in the distance. 

One day in November, by which time I was coming to the con- 
clusion that a cripple's lot was evidently to be mine, a telegram was 
put into my hand. Rhoda had not written for a week and Agnes 
had let me know she was rather ill; this message told me she was 
dead. . . . Italy slipped away from me and for many weeks I only 
saw Rustington. 

There are few spots on earth, I imagine, of which anyone can 
say: "There, at least, I was perfectly happy/' but whenever the 
beach at Rustington suddenly stands before my mind's eye, that 
thought swims up with the vision. ... I am glad to think of her 
lying within shadow of the old church, close to the stretch of sea 
we both loved better than any other. . . . 

For some reason I never fathomed Rhoda's death swept away the 
clouds between me and Lisl. Perhaps she was sorry for me, perhaps 
she realized that now more than ever I clung to her the one 
blessed, and as I believed unchangeable, thing in a cruel changeful 
world. And I often wonder, too, whether it was a cry of grief about 
Rhoda's letters - "Keep, keep," I wrote to her, "the letters of peo- 
ple you love" that made her resume the habit, dropped since 
nearly two years, of keeping mine. Anyhow our relation became 
from that time onwards what it had been in early days; and so it 
remained till it ended. 


Impressions that Remained [1882-83 

CHAPTER XXX. Christmas 1882 to Summer 1883 

V/N Christmas Day, in my holly-decked apartment, Amey and I 
entertained young Heinrich Brockhaus, who was passing through 
Florence on his way to Rome. Amey had a home receipt for plum- 
pudding and I another, given me by Julia's Irish governess, Miss 
Gardener. Fortunately, as was only 'decent, peace and goodwill 
reigned in our establishment at that moment, and we stirred our 
respective messes on the brick altar in friendly rivalry. I had inspired 
distrust by enquiring if it made any real difference whether you mix 
in the yolk and the white of an egg separately or together, but my 
plum-pudding won in a canter as it was bound to do, according to 
Miss Gardener, the receipt being Irish. 

The bill of fare of the first dinner a cook dishes up remains for 
ever engraven on the tablets of memory. We had printaniere soup, 
a roast fowl with tongue and mashed potatoes, the twin plum- 
puddings, cheese cakes, and dessert, including specially chosen bon- 
bons that among other things Lisl and Lili Wach had sent me. 
As the former wrote: "With such poor little means thy living try 
to console thee for thy dead." Christmas Eve, the real German festi- 
val day, I had spent at S. Francesco, where the children provoked 
me by foolish gloating over their presents, while Hildebrand, who 
loathed these occasions, sat apart, bored and friendly. 

Meanwhile I was almost crippled . . . and Rhoda was dead. 
This was the Italy I had looked forward to with such longing! a 
place that a first great sorrow made all the more intolerable because 
of the beauty I saw with my eyes but could not feel. At that time I 
hated and feared life, passionately .envying a nature like Hildebrand's 
that accommodated itself to the senselessness of it all, and just be- 
cause it was senseless and inevitable didn't care. Almost nightly I 
dreamed of niy dead friend, dreams such as this: She was declared 
to be dying, but I knelt beside the bed and said: "Listen; I shall 
go away tomorrow, and if I tell you I shall be coming back again 
in a month, you know you cannot die till I do!" and she answered 
with the old amused gleam in her eye: "Of course I can't; that's 
rather a good idea go by all means." And then I would awake, as 

1882-83] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

tens of thousands awake nightly while the earth Is turning smoothly 
round the sun, asking myself; "How can I bear this?" The only key 
that opens a way out of the torture-house, acceptance, seemed lost 
for ever. "Will talking of Rhoda," I asked Lisl, "ever be like talking 
of last year's toothache?" That question I can answer now; speaking 
for myself, certain tragedies in one's life can be put away, not thought 
of hardly for years if you choose it shall be so; but the moment you 
let your mind dwell on them the old ache comes back, and is mas- 
tered by weapons Time has put into your hands. One gets over 
everything . . . and nothing. 

I spent two months of that spring of 1883 either in bed or on the 
sofa. For three weeks the kind Hildebrands Insisted on having me 
at S. Francesco, and being mercifully seized at last by a mania 
that seizes all sooner or later, I read forty-two volumes on Napoleon, 
fervently blessing Vieusseux, the best lending library in the world. 
Also I painted a good deal from nature and did caricatures, in which 
pursuits, strange to say ? Hildebrand took great interest. Once I 
elaborated a theory which he disputed of the laws that govern the 
perspective of cloisters, drawing many diagrams to prove it; and one 
of my most cherished possessions is a diagram under which I made 
him write over his signature: ''Ethel hat doch Recht gehabt!" (Ethel 
wets right after all.) Knowing how he wriggled out of or forgot 
things afterwards, I thought well to take precautions. 

The progress of my acquaintance with Julia was slow and not even 
sure, one step forward generally meaning two steps back. Visits were 
strictly rationed on the scale of one per fortnight. She rationed 
everything. For instance, having learned that Rossetti was her fa- 
vourite poet and constant solace, I was surprised to find on examin- 
ing the two volumes of his poems, which she had had a year to my 
certain knowledge, that the second was intact and of the first only 
six pages cut; but she explained that she liked her pleasures in small 
doses. And when I remarked that at that rate it would take her seven 
years to get through The House of Life only, she replied: "So much 
the better!" Such was her tempo, and it may be imagined how it 
suited mine. I also noticed that the simplest reactions of human 
nature seemed incomprehensible to her till she had stated them to 
herself in terms of metaphysics . . . after that all was clear now 
she held the clue! 

Impressions that Remained [1882-83 

Yet I remember one little scene that made one ask oneself whether 
this aloofness from things human was not part of a deliberate scheme, 
whether there were not other possibilities, severely held in check. 
Physically as mentally the last word of distinction, she was more 
striking-looking in a strange way of her own than pretty; but one 
evening she presented such a ravishing appearance in a new gown 
that Hildebrand, though not of an inflammable disposition and 
disciplined by a morbidly jealous wife, was quite in love with her for 
the moment. And behold the dignified Julia blushing and embar- 
rassed like a schoolgirl! Finally, when I played a Scotch reel, Hilde- 
brand began dancing about before" her the primitive form of 
love-making I believe and oh, wonder! suddenly she rose and be- 
gan dancing too! . . . Pallas Athena cutting capers with a Satyr! 
When I afterwards described the scene to Lisl she listened in awe- 
struck silence without a smile. 

By the time spring was really on us I became able to hobble about 
a little with a stick, and was borne up steps of churches by a Hercu- 
lean Frimhurst friend, Arthur Somerset, then amateur champion 
heavy-weight boxer of England. He refused to strip for Hildebrand's 
benefit, but had no objection to prancing about the studio in a long 
mustard-coloured ulster, delivering knock-out blows to imaginary op- 
ponents. Hildebrand, who delighted in the English, was in ecstasies, 
laughing undisguisedly while the boxer gravely finished his round, 
and afterwards he used often to say: "Where outside England could 
you produce a fellow like the champion boxer?" At that time Arthur, 
fresh from the Colonies, fell in love with every woman he saw, and 
It would have been unkind to leave me out. There was also a Swiss 
painter whose physical development and amorous susceptibility al- 
most equalled Arthur's; he also rushed up and down church steps 
with me in his arms more in muscular than sentimental rivalry I 
fancy, but with the same tender results. In fact, thanks to that sprain 
and consequent helplessness, I was for the first time in my life a 
pronounced success with the other sex. 

Other things I recall in connection with that first winter in Flor- 
ence, during which time my work forged ahead as never before, are 
being met on the Piazza S a Maria Novella by a man with about 
twenty crocodiles which he addressed as bimbi (children), and 

1882-83] Germany and T<wo Winters in Italy 
who, when asked: "Sidomano questi animali?" replied: "Nos- 
signora, non sono punti animali domestic^ ("Can these animals be 
tamed?*' "No, madame, they aie not at all domestic animals") . Also 
that dear Reuss turned up, and Hildebrand instantly noticed that 
whereas in restaurants, where he paid for himself, he generally or- 
dered cold ham and a glass of beer, at S. Francesco his appetite was 
such as to amaze even the children, who, thinking perhaps of ogres, 
asked their mother if all princes ate like that. Often and often had 
the Herzogenbergs and I been amused at this very durchlauchtige 

How we made music that spring! . . . playing every chamber 
work we could cope with, on Busch's immortal principle: 

"Es isi zur wahren Hans Musik 
Der Muth mehr nothig als Geschick" 1 

With Brahms I had of course no success, both Hildebrand and Julia 
being stubbornly refractory as was also H. B., who came back a 
few weeks before I left Florence and with many qualms became our 
cellist. He actually began taking lessons again of his old master, 
Sbolci, the great local star, and one day when he did extra well, and 
I kept on exclaiming from the piano: "Sbolci!!" he thought I was 
saying "Spoiled Gf " a mistake which was not cleared up till many 
years later, for at the time he was too upset to refer to the incident. 
And now my dislike of his mentality began to yield to interest, as 
he proceeded to open up a mind hitherto hermetically sealed to the 
La an race. In spite of my mothers leanings the only countries that 
counted for me were England and Germany, and no John Bull ever 
held more foolish notions as to French superficiality and moral in- 
stability a confession it costs me something to make even thirty 
years after conversion. It was H. B. who first persuaded me to study 
Flaubert, Baudelaire, and Verlaine seriously, introduced me to Ana- 
tole France, and kindled a flame of enthusiasm for French literature 
generally that was an endless subject of dispute between me and 
Lisl both by letter 2 and otherwise. On that rock, however, I beat 
in vain; there is no bridging the gulf between Latin and Teutonic 

1 "For music-making in the home, courage is more requisite than skill." 

2 Appendix, pp. 361-2, No. 11, No. 12. 


Impressions that Remained [ 1 8 8 2-8 3 

civilization, and her aversion to French poetry is common to all 
Germans, though few of them express it as frankly and forcibly as 
she did. 

Just before I left Florence, news came that the Brewsters' chateau 
near Grenoble, a grand old pile made habitable by them at great 
expense, had been burned to the ground. Julia, the superwoman, was 
overwhelmed, and remained invisible for two or three days, but the 
bearing of EL B. was a revelation to me; he took it as one might take 
the loss of an old cigarette-holder. It was understood, my Italy hav- 
ing been a failure owing to my lameness, that I was to come back 
in the autumn, and early in July I left for Berchtesgaden, where the 
Herzogenbergs were building a little house, and which lay on the 
road to my real destination a Bavarian village called Aibling, 
where there was a primitive but well-spoken-of mud-bath cure. 

At Berchtesgaden I had a Wiedersehen with my friends that ef- 
faced all memories of the Venice fiasco, he being delighted with my 
musical output, and she, whose letters had given me a foretaste of 
the old tender comradeship, apparently bent on bringing its endur- 
ingness home to me. 

In connection with my adoring reverence for Julia an amusing little 
psychological study awaited me; now for the first time a slight tinge 
of criticism crept into Lisl's appreciation of her wonderful sister. On 
one point we saw eye to eye. The home life at Frimhurst had always 
been warm and human, and though, as the demon Brandt child at 
Leipzig had remarked, I was not fond of small children, I did not 
like to see them excluded from the general scheme as they were in 
Via de* Bardi. As for other aspects of life in the Ivory Tower, I dis- 
covered that Lisl had but vague notions as to the exact tenets of 
her strange relations, and above all seemed wholly unacquainted 
with the Julia I knew, my account of whose opinions and points of 
view seemed to produce a bewildering effect on her mind. This was 
not surprising. The Brewsters were not apostles of their own creed, 
least of all among the Gentiles, and apart from her dislike of con- 
flicts Lisl would shrink from discussions that might chill the wanr 
temperature she longed for in that quarter. But in face cf my ad- 
miring trumpeting forth of their gospel it was difficult to shirk com- 


1882-83] Germany and TIDO Winters in Italy 

ment, particularly on the burning subject of the marriage bond. She 
realized, and slightly resented, their gentle ridicule of her own sim- 
ple, instinctive views, would stoutly defend them, and, like Frau 
Hildebrand, maintained that when it comes to the point, every- 
body, no matter what his theories may be, feels exactly like the con- 
cierge and his wife. Still there was no denying the fact that neither 
of her relations could be called instinctive and simple, and she had 
nothing to oppose to my amused and rather scornful refrain: "But 
you don't know them! 7 ' In short our conversations on the Brewster 
mentality, as regards this particular point at least, led to noth- 
ing and, as they evidently rather distressed her, were not per- 
sisted in. After all, as she said, there was little likelihood of these 
fantastic theories of theirs ever being put to the test, so we left 
it at that. 

Meanwhile I pottered about, my leg being still leaden, and inci- 
dentally got through a good deal of sketching; but the great event of 
that sojourn in Berchtesgaden was that now for the first time I made 
real friends with Madame Schumann. 

It all began over a conversation about her old friend Livia Frege, 
to whom, though she saw her faults, she was deeply attached. I al- 
ways thought neither of the Herzogenbergs appreciated Frau Livia 
properly, and at that moment she was quite in Lisl's black books 
because of an absurd incident that had happened in Leipzig that 
spring. All three of them were dining at the Wachs* when it came 
out that this was the fiftieth anniversary of Livia's first appearance 
as concert singer, and presently Herzogenberg rose to bring the usual 
toast. He was a delightful speaker, graceful, witty, and human, but 
at times absent-minded, and alasi when the critical moment arrived, 
the name honoured ones there present were begged to celebrate was 
not Frau Frege but Frau Wach! Of course everyone laughed, but 
Livia's was le rire jaune. Though a great artist, and now a great lady, 
she took speeches with the seriousness of the bourgeoise she was by 
birth and early associations, and all the evening sarcastic allusions 
to his little slip uttered of course in a laughing way rained on 
poor Herzogenberg, This Lisl thought both stupid and ungracious, 
which of course it was; and when Frau Schumann pleaded her old 
friend was like that, Lisl maintained it was a great pity to be like 


Impressions that Remained [1882-83 

that; in short, the discussion became heated. And as I entirely agreed 
with Fran Schumann's remarks about spots on the sun, and not only 
admired but really loved Frau Livia, a strong wave of sympathy set 
in from that hour. 

With all her sixty-odd years Frau Schumann was more a child 
than any of us, and up to that time, as she afterwards confessed, the 
new element in the life of her beloved Lisl had rather upset her. 
But once Frau Schumann accepted you it was generously done. I 
had written a little Prelude and Fugue -for Thin People, thus styled 
because the hands crossed rapidly and continually, deeply invading 
each other's territory. This piece she was determined to study, and 
when I gently demurred, from modesty of course, she flared up in 
her own peculiar fashion with: "Aber so stark bin ich dock nicht!" 
("I'm not as fat as all that'/') a phrase that gave play to that en- 
dearing little lisp of hers. Her daughters reported her as completely 
engrossed in this athletic problem, murmuring to herself amidst her 
struggles: "Gehen muss es aber!" ("It must be managed!") and in 
the end it was dedicated to her, title and all, by special request. She 
had visited England regularly for nearly half a century, but all the 
English she knew was "Alright!" spoken as one word and thrown 
into her German haphazard, as often as not inappropriately. One 
day, fancying I had offended her, I sent over an apologetic note to 
her lodging, and presently back came a card with "ALRIGHT!" written 
on it, for once applied as intended. Another time I found her exam- 
ining a sketch I had made of the fine old cloisters at Berchtesgaden, 
the colour effect of which I was rather pleased with; after a painful 
silence she remarked: "But surely those cloisters are not all blue and 
yellow like an Austrian bank note?" She then hastily added: "But 
what do I know about painting? nothing at all!" and I had to assure 
and reassure her that I was not at all hurt. 

There is one charming Frau Schumann story of this period a 
conversation Herzogenberg overheard while I was at Berchtesgaden 
which I hope has never found its way into print; anyhow an Eng- 
lish version must be prefaced by the remark that in Germany 
crochets, quavers, and semiquavers are called fourths, eighths, and 
sixteenths. In the Schumann household the eldest daughter, Marie, 
did the accounts, and one day she suddenly asked (I must give the 
German first) : "Mama, wieviel gabst du mir soeben? ein und ein 


1883] Germany and Two Winters In Italy 

filnftel Mark, nicht wahr?" The astonished reply was: "Aber Kind, 
besinn' dich dock! Funftel giebfs ja nicht, bios viertel, achtel, und 
sechszehntel!" ("Mama, what did you give me just now? one mark 
and a fifth, wasn't it?" "But, child, reflect! There are no such 
things as fifths, only fourths, eighths, and sixteenths/ 7 ) This anec- 
dote, together with the one about Joachim and the metronome, looks 
as if music and arithmetic don't go together. 

I always think with amusement of one of Frau Schumann's unex- 
pected little rages, because one so often suffers under the cause one- 
self. Two or three of her humble satellites had followed her to Berch- 
tesgaden, much encouraged thereto by her daughters, who found 
their mother's holiday passion for cards excessive; and one day, just 
as they had started a game of skat, one of the satellites observed that 
if they had thought of it they might have played dummy-whist in- 
stead. "There!" cried Frau Schumann, "if there is one thing I 
abominate it is people who as soon as you have settled down to one 
game suggest another, or when you are going to play one piece ask 
for some other piece. . , . Achl diese ungergelten Geister! ft (these 
undisciplined spirits!), and so on, till her wrath died down in LisFs 
peals of laughter. It wasn't everyone however who had Lisl's courage 
and could carry it off; in other company the air was often thunderous 
for quite a long time after one of these outbursts, till suddenly the 
thunderer herself came forth with her indescribably beautiful smile 
from behind the clouds, and all was well. These are the faults that 
endear people to you almost more tfian their virtues. 

CHAPTER XXXI. Summer 1883 to December 1883 

JL ONLY stayed a short time at Berchtesgaden, the pressing matter 
being to get my leg cured, and departed for Aibling with a half- 
promise from the Herzogenbergs to join me there later. And it was 
further arranged that on my way back to Italy in the late autumn I 
should stay with the Schumanns at Frankfurt. . . . O glory! 


Impressions that Remained [1883 

Aibling, like all places where you have finally got rid of a haunt- 
ing terror for Johnny's fate had been much in my mind, as in my 
mother's is a loved recollection. But for a diminutive Kurhaus it 
was an enchanting, absolutely primitive village, cut in two by a 
couple of clear brown streams running parallel to each other, and 
spanned every hundred yards or so by wooden bridges and at the 
back of beyond was a most rugged threatening-looking section of the 
Alps. I gathered from the station-master that accommodation was 
scarce and humble, and went off to the only place he could suggest, 
the one hotel being of course beyond my means. Finding no one in 
the passage, I knocked at the door of what seemed to be the gate 
Stube, and receiving no answer, opened it with a polite: "May 1 
come in?" to find myself in presence of three cows. Presently a young 
female farm hand advanced out of the gloom and showed me the 
room they were in the habit, so she said, of letting. The chest of 
drawers, I was told, belonged to der Mutter and were filled with 
her Kram (old stays, bodices, and hobbles for the cows) in fact 
the only drawer that could be put at my disposal was in the base of 
the sofa-bed, a thing without head or tail-board, higher in the centre 
too than at the ends, so that one's pillows were generally on the floor. 
There was one cup in the house but no saucer, one knife, one fork, 
and some glasses, all of which were produced as a great favour from 
the mother's cupboards. I lived in that house three whole days. The 
peasant (that is, die Mutter) waited on me with a baby on one 
arm, while a soprano of the third-rate Italian kind sang wildly in the 
Kurhaus opposite, practising for a concert. And to crown all, a place 
which shall be nameless was in the cows' drawing-room. When I 
moved on elsewhere I stuck to the peasant as masseuse because of 
her powerful Technik, which she accounted for by saying: "Ich 
bin ja recht viel mit dem Heben Viech umgegangen" ("I have had 
much truck with the dear beasts") . 

My next visit was to the doctor, who turned out to be a born 
healer though not of the Harley Street type. He lived in an ancient 
little house all gables and corners, with a beautiful sundial and motto 
painted on it; and as once more nobody responded to my knockings 
I walked straigHt into an old-fashioned room, full of worm-eaten 
carved furniture, good taste, and dirt. Seated at a St. Jerome-like 
table, in the midst of the litter characteristic of that saint, was a 


1883] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

man with filthy hands, muddy riding boots, rusty spurs, and a blue- 
eyed intelligent face, who had lost his voice and spoke, in a hoarse 
whisper, a dialect that puzzled even his German patients. I at once 
saw he knew all about my case, and went off with the loan of an 
electric battery, evidently home-made and coated with oil and peat 
mud. To cut a long story short, he and the baths cured me com- 
pletely in three w r eeks, but for a shrunk muscle which had yet to be 
expanded by exercise. 

I spent an exquisite August there, learning quantities of Rossetti 
by heart while under treatment; and one evening, following one of 
the little rivers up a rocky valley, laughing young voices rang out, 
and round the corner I came upon some twenty naked youths, bath- 
ing, skylarking, and chasing each other among the trees. Here at last 
was a bit of old Greece . . and it was my miserable duty to walk 
on hurriedly looking the other way! ... By and by friends 
turned up, a certain Lord and Lady P. They had just been with my 
mother and Mary at Aix, where he had vainly wooed my lovely sis- 
ter with costly gifts, including a beautiful fan declined scornfully 
by her but gladly accepted by me. As I said before, my old Whig 
friend's advice never to refuse a good offer had been followed ever 

After the P/s left, by a wonderful bit of luck I came in for one 
of the village ceremonies that still survive in Catholic Alpine dis- 
tricts, the consecration of the "Aibling Veteran Society's" new ban- 
ner. No fewer than fifty-seven societies attended this festival with 
thirteen bands. At their head marched a magnificent peasant girl 
dressed like a vivandiere (I wish I had asked why) followed by 
twenty Aibling virgins in white muslin and blue ribbons, whose 
twenty self-conscious, stuck-up-looking countenances shone blowsily 
beneath flowery wreaths. All the women and most of the men wore 
gorgeous old peasant costumes, and as the procession wound among 
the little bridges, crossing and re-crossing the rivulets to the sound 
of Volkslieder beautifully played, I could have wept that, knowing 
nothing of the festival, I had not urged the Herzogenbergs to come 
one day sooner. When they did arrive they fell head over ears 
in love with the pkce, as I had promised them they would, and 
a week later I started for England, happier than I had been for 

Impressions that Remained [1883 

I went home via Rotfaenburg an der Taube, then little known, but 
a place most people interested in mediaeval towns have visited since. 
Conrad Fiedler, who had never been there, wrote a scoffing letter 
about my enthusiasm; how, he asked, can anyone who has seen 
Italian architecture rave about German Gothic? a point of view 
I never could understand. Meanwhile I envied Bavaria a form of 
government that enabled her King to forbid the modernization of 
Rothenburg, and thought with a pang of certain factories on the out- 
skirts of Hildesheim not to speak of Chester. 

How the sadness of that return to England came back to ine the 
other day, when, passing through Frimhurst, which is to let, I 
sought and found traces of the big "R.G." Rhoda had carved in the 
beech tree opposite the schoolroom window! Of course my first visit 
was to Rustington, my first walk to the churchyard. Nothing wrings 
the heart more sharply than remembering the jokes of a recently 
lost friend; as I laid on the grave a wreath I had made of the heather 
and many-tinted ferns she had admired round Frimhurst just a year 
ago, it flashed across me that she had once said I handled flowers as 
if I were buckling up the straps of a harness! ... In the hall her 
coat was still hanging, her stick still standing in its old place, and 
her favourite dog had learned, as dogs will, not to miss her. . . . On 
her writing-table was a caricature I had drawn of myself going away 
in a rage from the Parrys', because he wouldn't play me Beethoven's 
Opus in when I wanted him to, and under it written in her strange, 
strong handwriting: "Ethel, the versatile wax statue, going away 
from Knighf s Croft." . . . And the beach without her . . . and 
the hopeless bewilderment of a first great sorrow relived on the spot 
where you had been so happy! ... Of Agnes, who carried on 
Rhoda's work and responsibilities, and is alive now to see their 
fruition, I will only say that grief such as hers makes me half ashamed 
to have spoken so much of my own. 

The Frimhurst situation I came home to this time was, if any- 
thing, more fantastic than ever. I lit upon a tragicomic letter to Lisl 
describing it in full: the unutterable jollity of the young ones; the 
chatter at the breakfast table, which always fascinated me afresh; the 
ever-recurring financial crises; Papa's announcement that in two or 


Clara S 

^ 1876 

1883] Germany and Two Winters In Italy 

three years (!) we must let Frimlmrst; Mother's tears at this 
pect; her countless new and gorgeous gowns; my estimate of their 
cost; and finally the abstention of us younger ones from butter and 
sugar an attempt at bringing moral weight to bear on our parents 
which entirely missed fire. We children thought they must love our 
home less than we did, otherwise surely they would take action, but 
of course it was the common shrinking of minds no longer young 
and elastic from drastic resolutions. As I explained to Lisl, who en- 
quired why the mother I so much admired let things slide in this 
way, the force of her character exhausted itself in moments, and she 
was not good at sustained effort; but I am glad to say I added: "Yet 
ohl what a ganzer Kerl (real good sort) she is, and how thoroughly 
I approve of her!" Well I might. 

That summer I recall a little incident that illustrates how quick 
and kind she could be. Some exceedingly high and mighty people 
of the "nice" set had come to tea, and suddenly there entered, much 
to our horror, a gawky adolescent, son of neighbours such as every- 
one who lives in the country has to cope with gentlefolk in their 
own estimation and engaged in a severe struggle to establish the fact. 
My mother was always wonderfully kind to the parents of this youth, 
who on this occasion remarked, as he advanced towards her, wiping 
his hands on an unpleasant-looking handkerchief: "Excuse me, but 
I suffer from warm hands/* The high and mighty ones looked un- 
utterable things, but my mother, cordially shaking the sticky paw, 
said at once: "I know you suffer from a very warm heart!" . . . How 
rude she was sometimes for instance when she considered her 
daughters 7 admirers treated her "like a cipher" but how dear and 
delightful she could be when she chose. 

There was an unusually dramatic carriage adventure soon after 
my return. The "quiet" horse, Dandy, reared as some soldiers were 
marching by, fell backwards alongside the cart, and lay there plung- 
ing. One of the officers, who turned out to be our friend Lord 
William Seymour, was off his horse and on Dandy's head in a second, 
but the animal was so entangled in traces and straps that it took a 
company of guardsmen half an hour to set him free. After which 
Papa, the reins wound as usual round his weak, gouty wrists, drove 
quietly home, as if nothing had happened. That made, so the others 
said, four accidents in five weeks; and I may add that when my 

Impressions that Remained [1883 

mother was involved she was not in the least alarmed, only provoked, 
thinking such scenes ridiculous and rather unseemly. What with our 
stable adventures, and the fact that we were still exceeding our in- 
come by about two hundred a year, yet going on as usual, no 
wonder Uncle Charles maintained with more emphasis than ever 
that "the Irish strain predominated." On the other hand some of 
our sporting visitors found our ways quite to their taste, and once an 
old friend of ours, Henry Allfrey of the 6oth Rifles, remarked to a 
brother officer: "I always spend Sunday afternoon at Frimhurst 
they're ready to ride the pig or shoot the cow or anything/' 

In the autumn I met for the first time the Empress Eugenie, who 
after the death of the Prince Imperial had settled at Farnborough, 
and since 1883 has been the most wonderful friend to me and mine. 
I remember saying to the Duchesse de Mouchy that it was hard to 
believe that she could ever have been more beautiful than now, and 
the reply was: "I think in some ways she is more beautiful now than 
when she was young, because years and sorrow have done away with 
the accidents of beauty youth itself for instance, and colouring - 
and revealed the exquisiteness of design/' And as first impression 
another incident may be recorded a very characteristic one. A fat 
middle-aged Jewess of vast possessions, whose elaborate red-gold wig 
indicated what the colour of her hair may have been in her youth, 
and who possibly had resembled the Empress in other respects some 
twenty-five or thirty years ago (which she proclaimed to the world 
was the case), informed her hostess over the tea-table at Farn- 
borough Hill that she was constantly being taken for her in London. 
A thrill of secret horror and amusement ran through the assembled 
company, but the Empress's rejoinder, innocent of the faintest tinge 
of secret irony, was: "Mais c'est tr&s flatteur pour raoz, madame, 
puisque \e suis Hen plus dgee que vous" the first of innumerable 
lessons in good manners one was to learn in that school. 

October and November of that year I spent in the North with 
Alice and Mary. At Muirhouse, the old Davidsons' adorable place 
on the Firth of Forth where Alice and Harry lived in the summer, 
many of the happiest days of my life have been passed; there too, 
especially after she and my brother-in-law settled there permanently, 

1883] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

I really got to know Alice, of whom I had seen far less in my youth 
than of my special pal and contemporary, Mary. Though the Firth 
is not quite the sea, it is the next best thing, and a beautiful wood 
ran down the cliff right to the beach. Mrs. Davidson remains for me 
the perfect type of Scotch gentlewoman, and for some strange rea- 
son, since no one would have expected it, this gentle, tall, stately 
lady was fond of me perhaps because I was so devoted to her. Her 
husband on the contrary was tiny, vivacious, witty, and versatile, 
and but for his essential Scotchness might almost have been a Latin; 
in contact with these two I first became aware that theirs is the 
branch of the Anglo-Saxon race I most admire. They all loved music 
and beauty generally, and would listen for hours to soft Brahms and 
Schubert songs, but when I tried them with Bach's Organ Toccata 
in D Major, Mr. Davidson ran away, saying that sort of music 
sounded best in the next room. 

He was an inimitable teller of Scotch stories, and one of these, 
though perhaps it is well known, I must do my best to preserve, be- 
cause I so often use it against foreigners who declare there is only 
one vowel in the English language. The dialogue takes place between 
a salesman of woollen goods ( A) , and a customer who is testing them 
between his finger and thumb (B). With many apologies to Scot- 
land, I shall endeavour to spell phonetically and give a translation. 

Original Translation 

A: Ooh? Wool? 

B: Eye, ooh. Yes, wool. 

A: Ah ooh? All wool? 

B: Eye, ah ooh. Yes, all wool. 

A: Ah eh ooh? All one wool? 

B: Eye, ah eh ooh. Yes, all one wool. 

After this, the foreign interlocutor is generally too flustered to object 
that these are Scotch, not English vowels. 

Though the two dear brothers-in-law, Harry Davidson and Charlie 
Hunter, are dead, their wives are alive, so I will only say about them 
that it always makes me happy to know I was a favourite sister-in-law 
of Harry's, and that to Charlie, a great man to hounds, I owe my chief 
joy that year and in many years to come, for he mounted me when- 

Impressions that Remained [1883 

ever the hunting season found me in England. That November a 
String Quintet of mine, which was to be produced in Leipzig early 
in the New Year, was in course of rehearsal there, and Lisl wrote, 
only half in fun: "I believe you think more of how that wonderful 
horse jumps than how I like the new third movement!" a charge 
that our correspondence, in which every bar of that Quintet is dis- 
cussed again and again, amply disproves; but the irritation at my 
passion for sport continued long after she had ceased to fear it might 
crowd out a nobler passion. 

It was in connection with this Quintet that I began, if not to 
dislike, yet rather to distrust Joachim. Longing that my mother 
should hear something of mine, and considering that what was good 
enough for Leipzig was good enough for London, I begged Lisl to 
suggest his playing it at St. James's Hall; all the more since when it 
had suited his book, if I may use the expression, he often produced 
works far less ripe than mine. But Joachim beat about the bush, said 
he preferred a Quartet which he knew I didn't think much of, and 
which as a matter of fact I had torn up, and the end of it was noth- 
ing at all. I had no ambition whatever as regards England then, but I 
did want my mother to have a great pleasure something to show 
for all the bother I had caused them. She was wildly excited about 
this Quintet being produced, and would persist in talking about my 
"success," as she called it, to all sorts of kind bores, who then of 
course talked about it to me, and I longed to brain them all. All my 
life I have hated no word as I hate that vulgar, meretricious word 
''success." I tried my hardest not to snub dear Mother, and she her- 
self was more than satisfied with me that summer, writing to me 
afterwards with characteristic generosity that I had been "an angel"! 
But knowing how otherwise angelic one could be with people far 
less dearly loved but who never rubbed you up the wrong way, as 
usual I felt helplessly guilty towards her in my heart when the time 
came for crossing the Channel again. 


1883-84] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
CHAPTER XXXII. December 1883 to Spring 1884 

JLnis time my route to Italy lay over Frankfurt, where the Schu- 
manns had lived for some years. Every detail of that visit from the 
colour of the music-room curtains to the subdued creaking of the 
front door, which, according to my hostess, defeated every joiner 
in the town lives in my memory; nevertheless, having come across 
two letters of mine to Lisl fresh from the mint, one written under 
the sacred roof, the other in the train for Munich, I shall let these 
speak for me. 

At Frau Schumann's!!! December 1883. 

My Darling, It really has come true! I am under Frau Schumann's 
roof at last and in spite of the awfulness of it am wildly happy. I really 
meant to stay only two days but then dear kind Frau S. proposed doing 
the Quintet tomorrow and my staying till Monday. As that fell through 
I proposed going tomorrow (Sunday) . This she wouldn't have, so I stay 
till Monday after all. As ill-luck would have it I was out both yesterday 
and today at her practising time, but this evening she is sure to play. 

The first day she and I went off to hear Lakme by Delibes, and 
when we got there found it was to be Martha. I had never heard the 
opera, and she not for a long time, and we -were so amused. How young 
and unblasirt J she is! Yesterday we two went to the Museum concert, 
an awful programme; a Saint-Saens symphony, another novelty of an 
awful description, Arie out of the Meistersinger and Euryanthe, sung 
by the "exquisite" Gotz, .and . . . thank God for all His mercies . . . 
the G moll of Mozart. Sitting next us was Frau Viardot, such a bright 
clever-looking woman, with a personal and professional friendship for 
Saint-Saens, on which account Frau Schumann, who of course hated 
the symphony, endeavoured to control her feelings. Do you know that 
symphony? It begins with a passage for solo flute or clarinet, something 
like this, or worse [here follows a musical quotation] and seeing Frau 
Schumann's face horror, resignation, politeness, renewed horror, 
chasing each other across it I began to laugh so dreadfully that I 
didn't know how to hide it. You can imagine how comic it all was, but I 
was full of admiration for her patience and consideration of Frau Viar- 
dot's feelings. ... I get on very well with Marie and Eugenie 2 and 

1 The reverse side of blase. 2 Frau Schumann's daughters. 

33 1 

Impressions that Remained [1883-84 

find the latter as attractive on further acquaintance as I did at first, but 
I think both their minds want poking up; they give out so very little of 
what is in them. At home they are charming with her, or it is their hu- 
mour to be so now. I like to hear Eugenie chaff her, as yesterday when 
Frau S. said she always read the papers and Eugenie said: "Ja, Mama, 
dock nur die Mordsgeschichten" [Yes, Mama, but only the murder 
cases]. And oh! the funny, half-vexed, half-amused face with which she 
protested: "Nein, Kind, warum denn gar die Mordsgeschichten? Wie 
kannst du denn so was sagen?" [Nay, child, why then the murder cases? 
How canst thou say such a thing?] Do you know I have actually stopped 
being frightened of her. . . . They are calling to me to go out with 
them! . . . Heavens! I am late! More tomorrow. . . . 

In the train to Munich. 

... I am dreadfully sorry to leave Frankfurt but so happy to have 
had the privilege of being there. I wish I could make Frau Schumann 
see that. She would go on about "wzr haben Ihnen doch so vtenig 
anbieten konnen" [we have been able to do so little to amuse you] and 
it is so difficult for such as me to tell her without its seeming mere 
phrases what it is to one being in that house. And, do you know, the 
feeling of unaccustomed awe and reverence so unlike what I have for 
anyone else clogs me; and I feel a difficulty that never bothers me 
otherwise in expressing what I feel. I am perpetually reviewing our re- 
spective situations and thinking what a wretched object I am compared 
with her, and how I'd like to do something desperate for her; and so on 
in the most fruitless fashion. She played me the A minor fugue this 
morning. I think I care more for her Bach playing than anyone's in this 
world Oh, I forgot Brahms! I was thinking of Rubinstein, etc. 

With the girls I get on admirably, Marie quite transformed, so lively 
and jolly. They are very funny together and find me more than comic, 
so we amuse each other well. Our start for the party that evening was 
very funny, Eugenie nearly pulled Frau S.'s cap off wrapping her up, 
and then when the cab came it was so small we could hardly get into it, 
and Marie was in a fury and saying: "Nein, da bleid' ich doch zehnmal 
lieber zu Haus" [No, if it comes to that, I'd ten times rather stay at 
home] as if she had been doing anything but grumble all day at having 
to go. And then she and Frau S. abused the cab-driver in a tragic tone I 
cannot describe, but which you, knowing the people, can well imagine, 
for having so small a cab, and he privately informed me it was not his 
fault if four such unusually stout people (me stout!!) got in at once. I 

1883-84] Germany and T<wo Winters in Italy 

laughed so at the whole thing, as did Eugenie, that they ended by laugh- 
ing too and we had a jolly evening; and Frau Schumann played the E 
major Paganini study and Warum and some other little pieces so di- 
vinely and looked so beautiful that if I tried to hold forth about it I 
should assuredly fall into "excess." Y. Z. sang weakly and charmingly, 
and he and I and Eugenie sat at a Katzen Tisch 3 and were very jolly, 
and sending Frau Schumann and Marie home stayed on ourselves and 
played idiotic games and the fool generally. I was so sorry F. left before 
I came; I do like her much, with her clown's pathos and nice eyes and 
shyness of Frau Schumann. . . . Well you see, I am just as unreason- 
able about Frau S. as ever, and did she do wrong and you catechize me 
about it should vex you as much as ever, for I feel her faults without 
even wishing she had not got them I am perfectly indifferent to them 
and cannot bother even to think of them. As nature she is the most 
wonderful, delightful experience I know and I simply bask in it and try 
to make it more and more my own. I will write from Munich, my 
darling, and tell you about the Fiedlers. Oh how I long to be settled 
and at work again! 

Your E. 

This longing was not to be satisfied immediately, for while staying 
with the Fiedlers at Munich I developed a mysterious illness which 
probably was rheumatic fever. Anyhow I at once became delirious 
and broke the "German Record for Fever survived by the Patient' 7 
a speciality as many subsequent illnesses proved, and it is pleasant 
to excel in any line. Dreading something infectious I entreated to be 
taken to the hospital, but this they would not he?r of, and again I 
said to myself what wonderful friends were mine, though the one 
nearest to me in many ways by temperament, the one who under- 
stood everything instinctively and without cavilling, was dead. For 
ten days my head was enveloped in ice and could not be touched, 
and as I had gone to bed with my hair, which was long and thick, in 
a loose pigtail, there seemed nothing for it but to cut it off a dis- 
tressing necessity. But Fate intervened in the person of Mary's 
mother, who with the aid of oil, a mackintosh cover, and infinite 
patience accomplished the miracle of disentanglement after exactly 
three days of almost ceaseless toil. In the second week of the New 
Year I started for Florence, quite well though skin and bone, my 

s A little side table that Germans call the Cat's Table. 

Impressions that Remained [ 1 8 8 3-84 

Quintet having meanwhile been performed in Leipzig, as may be 
read in an admirable letter from Lisl on criticism. 4 

On the journey I fell in with an old English friend a widow, 
deeply religious on ultra-Protestant lines, whose husband used to 
beat her. She had often told me her greatest grief was knowing for 
certain that he was now in Hell, so it was astonishing to learn she 
intended doing a round of Italian churches, praying in each to be 
reunited with him as soon as possible. When I related this incident 
to Hildebrand he remarked as usual: "Where, I ask you, could one 
find a widow like that except in England?" I again took up my abode 
in Via dei Serragli, where nothing was changed except that Amey 
was now studying art elsewhere. My landlady, finally despairing of 
tips from furtive male visitors, stole my best boots first thing. After 
this exploit, with an idea perhaps of making me forget a rash offer 
to pay for them herself, she took to sticking bunches of violets in 
rickety wineglasses on my overcrowded writing-table; also to scream- 
ing u chi e?" in the passage, as proof of vigilance, whenever the door- 
bell rang. Implored to abandon this ear-splitting practice, she re- 
marked it would be the Signorina's own fault if more things were 
stolen, and shrugged her shoulders with a wry smile when I mean- 
ingly said I would take the risk. She was an old rip, as my father 
would have put it, but I think of her with sympathy if only be- 
cause one day, when I dropped three things in rapid succession, she 
remarked while picking them up: "Bella cosa che la terra ferma 
tutto!" (It's lucky that the ground stops everything) . 

That spring in Italy more than made up for the previous year's 
failure. I worked as rever before and contrived between whiles, alone 
and happy, to see most of the principal Umbrian towns; also Rome, 
where, the lodging of my desires being owned by a hairdresser who 
declared he never let rooms, inspiration prompted me to let down 
my hair, whereupon he gave in at once. In Hildebrand vein I ask, 
where except in Italy could you find a landlord like that? 

An exquisite trait in the Italians, the only race I am uncritically 
in love with, is this easy response to a human touch, a certain close- 
ness to nature which welds all ranks together at the base. Their 
heads may be in different social strata, but the feet of all are on that 
* Appendix, p. 360, No. 8. 


1883-84] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

rock. In spite of imperious authority on the one side and unbounded 
reverence on the other, my old friend of later years, that greatest of 
great ladies Donna Laura Minghetti, treated her butler and was 
treated by him as an equal at bottom, and it is the same throughout 
Italian society. That very spring I am writing about, thanks to my 
one aristocratic friend, the Dowager Duchess of Sermoneta (nee 
Ellis), who took me to all sorts of otherwise invisible villas, I was 
privileged to see a certain fat Marchesa, bearer of an historic name, 
rating her gardener so furiously that apoplexy seemed imminent, 
when the old man gently put his hand on her arm and said: "But 
figlia mia, peas won't grow in the open in February/' My very first 
essay in shopping the year before had given me a taste of the quality 
I mean, to which I owe as many twinges of delight, walking the 
country, as to the scenery itself. They had told me that people who 
have a soul above haggling are looked upon by Italian shopkeepers 
as dull and unsportsmanlike, in fact that to buy anything without 
bargaining is equivalent to shooting a sitting pheasant. I bargained 
therefore over a certain teapot as keenly as my knowledge of the 
language allowed; suddenly it was put into my hands at my own 
price, with the remark: "Do me at least the pleasure to break it 
soon!" . . . And then the politeness of them, the serene disregard 
of red tape in post offices and other; solemn places! At that time 
attempts were being made to bring home to the people the dangers 
of spitting, and noticing that this national custom was neverthe- 
less in full swing, I once asked casually in an up-to-date hospital 
whether spitting was forbidden in the corridors. The answer was 
"Sissignora: ma faccia pure il Suo commodo" (Yes, madame, but 
don't let that inconvenience you). How I loved, how I love the 
Italians! . . . 

I used to walk by night miles and miles along the Arno and once 
had a nightmare of an experience. On the narrow river path, hemmed 
in on the other side by impenetrable vineyard fences, I met a rough- 
looking man who stared and passed on. I am not nervous about 
tramps as a rule but this fellow was alarming big, brutal-looking, 
with a slight suggestion of insanity. The moon was perpetually 
dodging in and out among rushing clouds, and looking back pres- 
ently I saw the man had turned and was following me. I quickened 


Impressions that Remained [ 1 8 8 3-84 

my pace and found he was doing the same. I began to run, so did he. 
I must have run for about a quarter of a mile and was in extreme 
physical distress, when a transient beam showed a break in the 
fence; I shot in and my pursuer overran the scent. Then I flew down 
a rough path and soon hit a road within sight of habitations. After 
that I always walked at night with a revolver, knowing that if I 
produced it tramps would think I was mad and leave me alone. 
(Whatever you do in Italy the explanation is: "e pazzal") These 
walks terrified Frau Hildebrand ? but there was a vein of adventur- 
ousness in Julia (who, by the by, under the humanizing influence 
of H. B/s presence was more approachable this year) which re- 
sponded to unconventionality. She liked action in others as long as 
she herself was in no way involved. 

In March Lisl had a very severe illness. Remembering Rhoda I 
was terror-stricken and begged to be allowed to start for Leipzig, but 
Herzogenberg wouldn't hear of it said she was to be kept quiet 
and asked comically whether I really considered myself the right 
person? Bottom was their favourite character, and I promised "to roar 
an it were a nightingale/' but all in vain, and to make it worse Julia 
remarked: "One must be very ~wdl to enjoy you." Sadly I wished, as 
often since, that one could combine the advantages of one's own 
temperament with those of someone else's. 

That year there was a further crop of the Shakespere battles which 
abounded during the eighteen years of my friendship with H. B. 
(for I count from 1890, when we met again in England.) I had 
been swept away by Salvini's Othello, but unfortunately went to 
to see him as Lear, which, like all his r61es except Othello, was 
mere ranting. Still more unfortunately I found myself sitting next 
H. B. Many of Shakespere's plays got on his nerves and at that time 
he considered King Lear the work of a savage an opinion held, 
privately, by many cultivated Frenchmen, as I have found out since. 
Later in life, weaned from exclusively Latin tastes in literature, I 
think he came to feel Shakespere differently; anyhow I know he 
considered Hamlet the finest play in existence. But if two great 
friends have a perennial quarrel on a given subject, neither ever 
gathers exactly what the other's opinion is, particularly if one of 
them gets exasperated, as I invariably did on that theme. In later 
years we made it a rule never to discuss Shakespere. . . , 

1883-84] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

The Fiedlers came to Florence in April, but the blend with the 
Brewsters was not quite a success, Mary not appealing to Julia, 
partly because of a quality of hers I delighted in a touch of the 
peasant ("roughness" is a poor equivalent of the word that exactly 
expresses it, "derbheit"). I have a recollection of being with the 
Fiedlers by chance in some place where burghers were dancing, 
where we were bored and silent, and where she, who, like me, cared 
for the good things of life, suddenly exclaimed in broad Bavarian (it 
may have been a quotation but I never forgot it) . "Tanzen konnen 
wir nicht, reden und amusant sein konnen wir auch nicht, dber 
Champagner trinken konnen wir schon, damit die Lent' -was zu 
schaun haben und sich drgern" (We can't dance, we can't talk and 
be amusing, but we can drink champagne, so that people may stare 
and feel cross) . Whereupon she ordered two bottles. I owe to Fiedler 
a notable experience of German solemnity and lack of sense of 
humour notable because connected with one of their demigods 
for it was he who introduced me at Florence to the celebrated 
Roman historian Gregorovius. When I caught his name, I inno- 
cently said: "Why, I thought Gregorovius was an ancient Roman" 
upon which the great man turned on his heel and cut me ever after. 
Nowadays I might keep such a remark to myself, but surely it was 
very harmless? 

Hildebrand was wild that year on portrait busts his finest I 
think are of that period and had talked of doing one of me, but 
the idea of sitting is always unwelcome to active people, and eventu- 
ally he decided to take a cast of my face to start with. At the best 
of times this is a horrible experience; your hair is tied back with 
bandages, you are laid out on two chairs and swathed in sheets, your 
face is smeared with cold cream, your eyes sealed with clay, and 
quills are put up your nostrils and into your mouth. Then comes the 
plaster pouring, and your whole face is gradually buried under a 
wet weight of several pounds. I felt I was stifling and my heart 
bursting, but thought it was only nerves, for everyone present spoke 
in agitated whispers as at an operation. Then I lost consciousness, 
and came to to find the plaster had been hastily torn off by Hilde- 
brand, his wife having noticed that my hands had turned green and 
that there was a bubble of blood at the end of one quill, the others 
having fallen out altogether. In fact I was suffocating. In spite of 


Impressions that Remained [1884 

her and Fiedler we started again, and the result was an appalling 
thing, wholly useless to work by, which ever after was called "Ethel's 
death mask." I was just off on a long-planned expedition, and for 
reasons which will be explained later the bust was never executed. 

CHAPTER XXXIII. Spring 1884 

ZJLMONG many kindred experiences none floats more magically 
poetic on the horizon of my memory than the one I am about to 
relate. My scheme was to walk through the Casentino and across the 
Apennines into the Romagna, planning so as not to be more than 
two days' journey from the railway towards the end, in case funds 
should give out. In Italy you really can count on the weather, and 
my only luggage was a camel's hair Salzburg cape, a comb and tooth- 
brush, a tiny bit of soap, an iron-shod stick, an Ordnance map, and 
a revolver. The bulk of my money, a piteous little sum of course, was 
stowed away in various hems. I had got up the country thoroughly 
beforehand, knew where I should strike monasteries, art treasures 
off the ordinary beat, and the best point for what I had set my heart 
on a simultaneous view of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. 
For a fortnight I walked and scrambled in that noble landscape, 
passing from the delicate Casentino to rocky solitudes of a quite 
other order of sternness than anything I had seen in Switzerland. 
Sometimes you came upon a tiny group of human habitations hud- 
dled together in the unexpected greenness of a gorge; otherwhere not 
a soul was to be seen. 

I generously timed myself to arrive about nightfall at some mon- 
astery, sleeping in the outhouse provided by monks for Woman the 
Leper, or sometimes I hit off the albergo (neither an inn not yet a 
pothouse) of a mountain village. Twice or thrice I slept in the open, 
under a jutting rock or behind a heap of sweet-smelling herb-shot 
hay, my cape rolled into a pillow, for the nights were almost as warm 
as the days and the only spell of chilliness was at sunset. But the 

1884] Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

chief jewels in that little circle of precious memories are two inci- 
dents, one spiritual, the other temporal, that fell in the last two days 
of my wanderings. 

I had spent a couple of nights in a certain monastery that clung 
like a limpet to a precipitous wall of rock; what the Order was I for- 
get, but the monks' habit was white. The Prior was a short peasant, 
the expression on his round face a blend of shrewdness, childishness, 
and spirituality. Some first remark of his seemed to call for the ex- 
planation that I was a Protestant, whereupon he said gently: "The 
best Christian I have ever known was a Protestant he helped me 
once in my youth when I had just joined the Order"; then he was 
silent, and I saw he was peacefully contemplating a past tragedy. 
One of those saints who without effort, and seemingly without in- 
tention, draw souls forth from their shells as the first warm day 
draws bodies out of their houses, that monk knew more about me 
in two days than many a confessor might learn about his regular 
penitents in a lifetime. I told him about my music, about the ab- 
sorbing passion for sport and games, about Rhoda's death and the 
impossibility of bearing moral pain, about the pull of life and the 
constant longing for calm, the fascination of difficulties and barriers, 
the need of human contact and affection, the love of one's own 
ways in short, all there was to tell of the Lebensteufel that so 
often bewildered and distressed Lisl. . . . 

One can fancy what his commentary was the old, old receipt 
for the peace that the world cannot give, the necessity of turning 
away from life, and, when trouble comes, of acceptation. (We met 
again that evening, I and that most difficult of words! ) And once or 
twice he murmured, more to himself than to me: "It will take many 
years - yes, many, many for certain . . . but some day please God 
you will learn the lesson/ 7 On the second evening, the few francs I 
had tried to give him having been refused in accordance with the 
rules of the Order, I asked him in desperation how to repay them 
for their hospitality, A gleam of mischief came into his eye: "Well, 
if you like to give me fifty centesimi," he said, "that much I can 
accept with a good conscience if I say a few Masses for you . . . and 
I don't suppose you have any objection though you are not a Catho- 
lic/' Then he added: "I should have mentioned you many times at 
the Sacrifice anyhow for nothing." . . . The last sight I had of him 


Impressions that Remained [1884 

was at five o'clock next morning, standing at the top of the rugged 
path that led to the valley three thousand feet below and once more 
crying, with uplifted hand: "Figlia mia, figlia mial turn your back 
on life! it is the only way/' 

Towards sunset I arrived at a little village from which a two hours' 
walk next morning would take me to the station in time to catch 
the train for Florence. My money was all gone and I was rather sad, 
for at the critical moment clouds had come up on the eastern hori- 
zon, and though I caught a shimmer of sea on the west, the Adriatic 
had remained invisible. Thus the chief object of the expedition had 
not been achieved, and certainly the Prior would not expect one to 
learn resignation in twelve hours. While I was waiting for supper, 
as indeed at the moment of my arrival, everyone was discussing what 
could have happened to the Signor Barone, so of course I asked who 
the Signor Barone might be. They pointed to one of those fantastic 
fortress-like villages, hamlet and castle combined, that cluster among 
Italian mountains that was where the Signor Barone lived. It ap- 
peared he was a Florentine noble, who like the Prior had turned his 
back on the world not from saintliness, but in order to live, year in, 
year out, the life of a hunter; a man who knew not fatigue, whose 
rifle brought down everything it was pointed at, who sometimes on 
his way from the chase honoured that establishment by passing 
the night there, and might now be expected any moment. Presently 
much rumbling of wheels, cracking of whips, and shouting sent 
everyone flying out into the yard, and in came five dogs, followed 
by a tall, bronzed, well-set-up man between forty-five and fifty 
good-looking but for rather a red nose, and evidently a gentleman 
though a little run to seed. We saluted each other politely and I 
went on smoking cigarettes and devouring newspapers after the 
manner of people fresh from the wilds. Meanwhile the Barone sat 
down to a simple meal and ate as ravenously as I was reading, drink- 
ing his own wine, I noticed, which someone fetched out of a rough 

Presently he lit a perfect cigar of the brand H. B. patronized and 
we b t egan to talk, passing through the divine weather to whatever 
may have been the European situation of the moment, and thence 
to personal topics. I told him I was an English girl wintering in Italy, 


1884] Germany and Tivo Winters in Italy 

explained how I came to be in that village, how unfortunately I had 
missed the great view and had now concluded what was probably 
the most perfect experience life had to offer. He was greatly inter- 
ested, especially in the Ordnance map and my red-inked route, 
which, as one who knew every inch of the country, its art treasures 
and beauties of every kind, he found well planned; indeed, it was 
pleasant to hear him abounding generally, in the Hildebrand sense, 
as to the merits of the Anglo-Saxon race. "But you must see the two 
seas," he cried, "it is one of the most curious sights in the world. 
Do try again; this wind is bringing up just the right weather." 
Whereupon I explained that I had come to the end of my cash and 
had no alternative but to go back whence I came. The Barone, who 
I saw had an idea in his head, had got as far as saying: "Well, will 
you do this?" when he suddenly rushed to the window and thun- 
dered out: "Stop!" in a fashion that brought the departing hunting- 
cart up short. He then produced his card, which had a Florentine 
address on it, informed me that he lived up yonder in the mountains, 
which I already knew, and had many horses and carriages at his 
disposal. What he proposed was that his men should bring them 
down with provisions and that he should escort me next day to an- 
other spot I had not yet seen, whence a still finer view of the two 
seas was to be obtained, the road to which ran through century-old 
chestnut woods all the way; and for that day he much hoped I would 
do him the honour to be his guest. "Can you cook, by the by?" he 
asked; I replied I could, after a fashion. "Enough no doubt," he 
said, "to broil a couple of beefsteaks at a forge half-way up the pass, 
and my man shall bring the meat with him. . , . Now I earnestly 
entreat you not to deny me this great pleasure." . . . 

I looked at the Barone, who, with his sombrero, velvet coat, high 
boots, and distinguished though slightly dilapidated air, might have 
stood for the portrait of Don Juan approaching the fifties Don 
Juan disgusted perhaps for the moment with town life and building 
up in the pure mountain air for further adventures. All this was 
noted, but also that he was a gentleman, and I thought the risk could 
be taken; so after very slight hesitation I gratefully fell in with the 
plan, left him to make the arrangements, and went up to bed. 

The start was fixed for seven a.m. and our cavalcade consisted of 

Impressions that Remained [1884 

three carriages, four horses, and four mules 7 three of the last being 
hitched on somehow in harum-scarum tandem style. They never 
pulled an ounce and not infrequently careered along beside the 
horses. We went off at full gallop, dogs and all, across the valley, 
and struggled up the mountain road, reaching a sort of primitive 
forge at about ten o'clock. Frying-pans and all things needful were 
produced from one of the carriages, and the Barone was kind enough 
to say I handled the beefsteaks in a manner that inspired confidence. 
We conversed in French, much to my relief, and he revealed him- 
self as a cultivated man with great knowledge of literature, not to 
speak of the perfect manners which of course had struck me the 
night before. I mentioned the Prior; the Barone knew him and said 
the mountains were full of saintly men of that type. "I don't find 
the mountains make a saint of me," he added, "but then I don't 
want to be one, nor, though you are impressed by him for the 
moment, do you, I fancy/' Let no one think this was said sug- 
gestively, unpleasantly; it was just a quiet reflection and a true 
one. The last stage was a three-quarters of an hour's stiff climb on 
foot. Path there was none, and it was well that I had declined the 
offer of a mule, for I cannot think less than four could have con- 
veyed our paraphernalia up that place. Our bourne was a sort of 
grassy bridge, shaded by chestnuts, which connected two forest-clad 
mountains; on either side, peering at each other above the tree-tops, 
were twin peaks, wrought in the glowing, dark red rock that makes 
that part of the Apennines look at sunset like the upper reaches of 
Hell. From the bridge you gazed right and left for miles and miles 
till your eye met the two seas. And now the Barone began to lament 
and rave, for alas! once more the Adriatic had stubbornly shrouded 
herself in haze. I never saw a man more distressed, and what touched 
me was his evident fear lest I should think I had been lured thither 
under false pretenses; he actually appealed to the driver-in-chief to 
confirm his statement that nothing could be more favourable than 
the weather conditions. This may have been a bit of the Italian wili- 
ness I find so delightful, for of course the servant backed up the 
master, and went on after the manner of his countrymen to inveigh 
against the undependableness of what Mr. Wells calls "that ancient 
mother of surprises, the sea," The Mediterranean, he added in a 



Baroness von Stockhausen 

1884] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

spirit of justice, seldom failed to oblige, it was always the other; "In 

somma e un birbone quel Mar Adriatico" * he said in conclusion. 

Meanwhile the other servants were spreading out the feast on a 
table-cloth of exquisite old linen, embroidered and becoronetted, 
and the silver and glass though not in a high state of polish were 
beautiful in quality and design. No rough hunter's meal this, but a 
Decameronian banquet; chickens and tongues that put my beef- 
steaks into the shade, game pies, foie gras, and, above all, wonderful 
salads unlike anything I had ever tasted, which years afterwards I 
used to madden that old epicure Donna Laura by raving about, for 
of course I had forgotten details. I knew there was Chianti in the 
world such as that now before me, though, like the salads, I had 
never met it; but the Cordon Rouge was a cherished old friend. 
While we smoked over our coffee and liqueurs, the servants had 
their turn, and caroused behind some distant bushes on a jutting- 
out bastion of rock. I don't remember that we laughed much; it 
was pleasant, rather thoughtful talk, and we had silences too, like 
old comrades of travel. After one of these the Barone suddenly said: 
"This sort of thing would be unthinkable with any but an English 
girl. You are cold young people after all - full of vitality . . . but 
cold/' I said that depended; if you were out on an excursion in quest 
of beauty, well that was what you were out for, and quite enough 
too (or sapient words to that effect), and the moment passed. 
Perhaps he was giving me an opening on the off-chance of its being 
taken, but I don't think so; anyhow that was our one and only ap- 
proach to the danger zone. 

The wild drive down again was such as to suggest that the whole 
arsenal of futschi had been emptied behind those bushes, and as 
often happens when you are leaving a scene, never, I said to myself, 
can the superb landscape have looked so alluring. In vain one's 
eye sought the twin peaks from the valley below; my companion 
told me there was scarce a spot from which they could be seen. They 
might have been H.B. and Julia. . . . 

The Barone had let me know delicately that he considered me 
his guest during the whole extra twenty-four hours I had stayed on 
at his request, and having only just money enough left for breakfast 
1 In short that Adriatic is a rascal. 


Impressions that Remained [1884 

and railway ticket I had accepted the position without demur. He 
now told me that after dinner a little surprise awaited me, but first 
let me say that, apparently determined I should have a thorough 
change from the fare of the last two weeks, his own cook prepared 
the repast, and the champagne was of some brand he had spoken of 
at lunch as far better than Cordon Rouge. "I like a crescendo" he 
remarked as he filled my glass, "what says Mademoiselle the Musi- 
cian?" And crescendo it was. In all he did that day to please me, 
there was a splendid gesture as unlike a parvenu's display as he him- 
self was unlike Sir Gorgius Midas; one guessed he lived sparely 
enough out hunting, but, like the American friend I quoted, had 
found the pleasures of the table compensating when youth is past, 
and cultivated them at home. 

Then came the crown of those fairy-tale hours he fashioned for 
me. After dinner I was taken into a barn-like annex with raftered 
ceiling, illumined not with petroleum lamps but with wax candles 
(he had thought of everything!) . And there, making profound obei- 
sances, stood a little band of wandering musicians, beaten up .from 
Heaven knows where and at what trouble a violin or two, a cello, 
a couple of zithers, a guitar, some strangely shaped wood instru- 
ment, not of the hautbois but of the clarinet family (which surprised 
me), and a discreet mingling of tambourine and other percussion. 
The Barone told them I was a young musician from afar a very 
distinguished one he of course added and bade them see to it that 
their national music should please me; after which he led me to a 
big sofa covered with skins where we sat in state like a king and 
queen. They played deliciously, with the intense rhythm of South 
Latin races a rhythm we Anglo-Saxons not only have lost our- 
selves but seem incapable of appreciating in others. The culminat- 
ing point was when the leader rose and, with the grace none but 
Italians can hope to attain, handed me his violin and begged for the 
honour of my collaboration. Most of their performance was by 
heart, but for certain numbers they had dirty little bitsof MS. music 
(like London brass bands) and it was in one or two of these that 
I took part. 

Thus the day came to a close; I said good-bye to the Barone, who 
was going off very early next morning by train in the other direction 
(something to do with a rifle), promised to visit him in his moun- 


1884] Germany and TIDO Winters in Italy 

tain abode when next I should come to Italy, and never saw him 
again! . . . 

As epilogue I will add that walking home from the station at 
Florence, to my horror I met Lady Ribblesdale, a handsome, stately 
Scotchwoman of the attractive barrier type, one of my youthful 
"passions," who looked rather startled, as well she might. My straw 
hat might have been borrowed of a scarecrow, my boots had not been 
blacked for a fortnight, and my blouse had only once been washed 
and that by me in a mountain stream. I hastily shifted the cape 
on to my left arm and never knew if she caught sight of the revolver 
with its, knotted strap (the buckle had been torn off long since). 
But I do know that she remarked to the Duchess of Sermoneta that 
Mrs. Smyth would be much distressed if she were to learn that her 
daughter was rambling about alone in such an extraordinary get-up; 
wherein she did my mother injustice. 

The Duchess told me all about the Barone. He was of bluest 
blood, had run through two fortunes in his youth on the usual lines, 
fell in love with and married a penniless girl, got tired of her, set- 
tled what was left of a rapidly dwindling third fortune on his family, 
and being a great sportsman retired to one of his remote castles . . . 
not without feminine solace. There were meteor-like appearances 
in Florence, where he saw his wife and daughters and was considered 
an original rather than an outcast. Soon after I mislaid his card, 
and by the time I revisited Italy many years afterwards I had for- 
gotten his name and lost sight of the Duchess, who no longer lived 
in Florence. Like the Prior he crossed my path then the bush 
closed behind him for ever. Perhaps this is no misfortune. Even I, an 
incorrigible sequel-hunter, hold that certain very perfect experi- 
ences should have no sequel. 


Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

CHAPTER XXXIV. Spring 1884 to Spring 1885 

JL)OTH before and after this trip of mine, Julia having now ceased 
to ration my visits, I saw the Brewsters constantly, and found them 
more and more delightful. One of the great advantages of the 
amiable habit some friends have of keeping one's letters is, that a 
memoir-writer can check present-day recollections by contemporary 
evidence. For that reason I was glad to come across a letter of mine, 
dated April 1884, addressed to a friend who knew the Brewsters 
slightly and had asked for my impressions: 

. . . Her great idea is that he is to be a sort of Prophet, for which 
reason she encourages him in a bad habit of stooping from the neck, 
declaring it makes him look scholarly and unsmart! On the same lines 
she, the diplomat's daughter, is fond of assuring him that he hasn't the 
knack of associating with his fellow creatures, but this I think is partly 
because she herself loathes the world and wants his company in a dual 
solitude. Last year I once said to her that I thought his manners, though 
not traditional, were absolute perfection, and felt certain that if he 
chose he would have a great success in the world; and I saw at once how 
she shied away from the idea. . . . No one ever fascinated me more 
utterly than Julia does, though perhaps a good deal of it is the charm 
of things mysterious and unfathomable; one can't help hoping she may 
turn out to be human after all . . . ! They are the deepest of friends 
and I imagine were once passionately devoted to each other; but even 
if that part died down, as I suppose it always does, it wouldn't matter, 
for he is the sort of man it is impossible, besides all the rest, not to be 
fond of in a most comfortable way. Speaking for myself, what with com- 
paring notes about mankind, morals, art, literature, anything and ev- 
erything, what with the laughter and fighting and utter good comrade- 
ship, I have never had such a delightful relation with any man in my 
life. . . . 

I have forgotten to say that Frau von Stockhausen had taken up 
her residence in Florence early in the spring, and, to my great ad- 
miration, was learning Swedish at her age! Under the eye of her 
son-in-law, the one person of whom she stood in awe, she now de- 
veloped an elaborate friendliness towards me, which though grati- 
fying was rather alarming; and though they did not say so, I don't 

34 6 

1884-85] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
think her daughters (for of course I wrote the glad news to Lisl) 
were taken in for a moment. It is never soothing to one's vanity 
to be disliked by striking and, when they choose, fascinating per- 
sonalities, and by degrees, being optimistic in such matters, my 
alarm subsided, leaving the field to unmixed self-congratulation. 
The high-water mark of my favour was reached during another vio- 
lent illness, rather on the lines of the previous one, which suddenly 
overtook me shortly after my return from the mountains. Fruit,, 
flowers, and billets-doux were showered upon me, and once or twice 
my former enemy actually hovered about my bedsidel All this be- 
cause, as I learned later, a foolish young doctor whom the Hilde- 
brands considered a genius had announced I was in a galloping 
consumption and could not live more than three weeks! 

This news must have intoxicated Frau von Stockhausen, and if 
an incubus is about to be removed you sometimes almost love it. 
Or possibly, being an inveterate old comedian, the part of noble, 
generous, forgiving mother, which went so well with the beautiful 
powdered hair and delicate head-draperies, appealed to her. Or 
again, remembering Venice and Leipzig, she may have thought it 
wise to construct at the eleventh hour a screen between herself and 
possible reproaches from Lisl after my death. The one thing certain 
is that her previous sentiments towards me were fervent affection 
compared to what she felt at that moment. 

I think that Florence group of friends must have been quite mad; 
this time I had no rheumatic pains, only a cough, a racking head, 
and fantastically high fever; and three days after being condemned 
to the grave I was sitting up in bed playing the violin and eating 
with appetite symptoms the doctor considered conclusive. Julia 
had already telegraphed to my mother to come at once, and had 
also written, but in a characteristic fit of otherworldliness had put 
"Warnborough, Hampshire/' instead of "Farnborough, Hamp- 
shire/ 7 And now for a coincidence that only happens in broad farce. 
It appears that, as no country had been mentioned, the enterpris- 
ing Florentine postal authorities sent all the documents to New 
Hampshire, U.S.A. (Long after I was back at Frimhurst and in 
blooming health they came trickling in, much to the astonishment 
of my mother, for I had made one of my lightning recoveries and 
she had hardly grasped that I had ever been ill at all.) 


Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

Meanwhile the sudden collapse confidently predicted by the doc- 
tor failed to set in, and after a week or so he remarked for the first 
time that certain natures had the power to throw off the germs of 
tuberculosis in an astonishing manner. My friends were much re- 
lieved to hear this and congratulated me on my splendid constitu- 
tion . . . but the joy of one venerable friend seemed to me a little 
overdone. Three weeks later H. B. went off to Grenoble, where a new 
chateau was being reared on the site of the old one, and Julia and 
I left together for Berchtesgaden to join the Herzogenbergs. As 
Frau von Stockhausen was due there in a week, it was unanimously 
agreed that my stay should last exactly six days, after which I left 
for England. 

The last time I had been at Frimhurst, as I was now considered a 
financial expert, Mother and I had gone thoroughly into ways and 
means, and there is no doubt whatever that the problem of saving 
two hundred pounds or more on our yearly expenditure was solu- 
ble. A scheme had been drawn up between us which Papa, all in 
resenting it, could but admit was sound, and certain economies had 
been started at once. Others were to follow, and I had gone away 
full of hope. Alas! on returning this summer I learned from the 
others, who as I said were heart and soul in the matter (though 
Nina's bills did not look like it), that things had drifted back al- 
most at once into the old channel and that the letting of Frimhurst 
was now imminent. It appeared that Mother, who was then at 
Homburg with Violet, was far more reconciled to the idea than my 
father - partly perhaps because, though she would have died rather 
than admit it, the prospect of a change was not wholly unwelcome, 
especially if it meant living abroad for a while; but mainly, I think, 
because women are more thorough in these matters than men, less 
content with tinkering at a situation. Certainly when she came back 
from Homburg such initiative as there was came from her. 

We now had a very decent little organ at Frimley Church and I 
became bitten with organ-playing, which, as a sort of athletic exer- 
cise, appealed to me far more than the violin, not to speak of the 
prospect of tackling Bach on his own instrument. I determined to 
have lessons by and by in Leipzig (which I did) and meanwhile 
accepted with enthusiasm the invitation of our one really musical 


1884-85] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

neighbour, Sir William Cope, to spend a week-end with them and 
meet his old friend Sir Frederick Ouseley, the well-known organist 
and composer. 

Strange to say, a new musical experience awaited me at Brams- 
hill, Sir Frederick; who had studied music at Leipzig under Men- 
delssohn himself, being one of the very last of the old race of im- 
provisers. He would ask you to give him a theme for a fugue; you 
invented, of course, as crack-jaw a one as possible, and off he 
started. A good deal of it was learned padding, but immensely mu- 
sical and effective, and I, who had heard nothing like it at Leipzig 
or elsewhere, was much impressed. Several members of the West- 
minster Abbey Choir had also been asked to meet him and sang 
part-songs exquisitely in that superb old hall. But the most exciting 
thing was that at meals a slip of music was placed beside each of 
us, according to our voice, and the pitch being given with a tuning- 
fork, we sang grace at sight on Gregorian tunes unearthed by Sir 
William, who was a thorough musical antiquarian. At each repast 
new tunes appeared, and the effect was so indescribably solemn 
that it was difficult to settle down to one's soup. This is the only 
incident of any kind I can recall during that summer. 

I had known for some time that Salomonstrasse 19 was among 
the many monuments of dead and gone burgher ideals doomed to 
demolishment; that summer the blow fell, so that when I went back 
to Leipzig in October new quarters, with the indispensable out- 
look over green, had to be found. The loss of the dear attic suite 
would have been heartbreaking but for the fact that my days in 
Leipzig were numbered; for it was now an open secret that Herzog- 
enberg had accepted the post offered him by Joachim (Professor of 
Composition at the Hochschule) and of course I was to follow 
them to Berlin. Having to say good-bye to certain friends in Leip- 
zig would be very sad, but on the other hand I looked forward to 
studying the Prussians after all, the hub of the German Empire 
at close quarters. 

I remember vividly two incidents in that winter season. When I 
think of one of them my blood boils even now; the other is among 
the most delightful memories of my life. 

The first was connected with the Egyptian Campaign of 1884-5, 


Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

throughout the course of which I had been lectured right and left 
by the Germans even more severely than during the South African 
War. The culminating point was the death of Gordon, a hideous 
tragedy that made me ashamed to look anyone in the face and was 
the beginning of a life-long horror of the Liberal Party. A day or two 
after the news came I was sitting in the Limburgers 7 box at a Ge~ 
wandhaus concert, and so was the Commandant of the Leipzig 
garrison, a well-known 1870 General of the thin, snappy type. Sud- 
denly, during the interval, he turned on me and in loud rasping 
tones expressed his opinion of a nation that left its best servants 
in the lurch. The offensiveness of his manner was indescribable, but 
being only too conscious of deep national humiliation I let the 
waves meet over my head. At last Frau Limburger, in spite of 
the absurd awe in which these military bigwigs are held, took up the 
cudgels and asked why they should arraign poor me for the sins of 
the English Government? To this the Commandant solemnly re- 
plied that on the contrary it was the duty of right-thinking people 
to seize every opportunity of bringing home "our German feeling in 
this matter" to all and any members of the offending race. I am 
quoting verbatim from a contemporary record the words of a dis- 
tinguished General Officer to a young stranger dwelling in their 
midst! . . . This time, and no mistake, I realized that, as regards 
our country, Germany was a huge cistern full to the brim of hatred 
military hatred anyhow and that I was sitting under the escape 

It is a relief to turn to the other incident, the realization of a 
long-cherished hope namely, my mother's visit to Leipzig, which 
fell in April. She was very well just then, and as, whether I ap- 
proved or not, her cupboards were full of gorgeous garments, I 
begged her to bring a few with her a weakness for which no one 
will blame me. Naturally I wanted her to be a success in every 
way, and as it turned out, her triumphal progress among my friends 
flattered my fondest desires. I never saw her more entirely at her 
best, more radiant. Of the effect of the music on her I have already 
spoken, and knowing how it would increase her pleasure, I used to 
play beforehand the themes and chief beauties of everything she 
was going to hear. My dear kind friends competed with each other 


1884-85] Germany and Two Winters in Italy 
for her presence in their Logen, lent her their carriages, and gen- 
erally showered hospitality upon her. But what made me happiest 
was her adoration of Lisl, who was so perfect with her that even 
now, thinking of it, my eyes fill with tears. They saw each other 
daily and Mother's room was always stocked with flowers sent by 
her; "I have always loved you for loving them/' she said. After 
Lisl, I think Frau Limburger was nearest to her heart; she saw at 
once how the jolly home life, more reminiscent of Frimhurst than 
anything I found elsewhere in Leipzig, must appeal to me, and 
knew how generously I had been allowed to share it. Of course too 
she at once detected the breeding hidden beneath eccentricities of 
manner that endeared that old friend to one rather than otherwise 
in a word, saw eye to eye with me in everything. 

Her German, at first a little wild and intermixed with French, 
daily came back to her more and more, and as ever she took the 
bull by the horns. There was one extraordinary conversational effort 
with Herr Frege, an absent-minded old gentleman not quick at the 
uptake under any circumstances, who knew not a word of any lan- 
guage but his own, and who had remarked to her, as politeness re- 
quired, that she must be very proud of her Fraulein Tochter. "O 
jal" said my mother, "aber . . ." well, I will not try to quote her 
reply, which was an endeavour to convey that she sometimes felt 
like*a hen that has hatched a duckling, but unfortunately she could 
not recall at the moment the German for "hen," "hatched," or 
"duckling." It happened at luncheon and I was far away, but saw 
her appeal once or twice to neighbours, point to an egg, make a 
gesture of swimming, and, my attention being by this time thor- 
oughly aroused, heard the bewildered Herr Frege slowly saying: 
"So, so Ihr Fraulein Tochter geht also gern aufs Wasser?" ("Ah, 
indeed, your daughter is fond of boating?" ) This my mother under- 
stood and went off into fits of laughter as did everyone else, but I 
am certain old Frege never had the faintest idea what it was all 

The finale was a grand dinner party given by her to many whose 
kindness to me had been unwearying for the last seven years. She 
looked amazingly handsome, wearing all her diamonds, and in- 
sisted on Herzogenberg taking her in to dinner a touch everyone 
appreciated Lisl being on the other side of her left-hand neigh- 

35 1 

Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

bour. Dr. Philipp Fiedler wrote a really charming poem in her hon- 
our, full of course of kindly references to her daughter. Limburger's 
speech, for there were several, was brilliant, funny, and in English, 
and she took Wach's, the polished diction of which was a little be- 
yond her, for granted, asking me afterwards if his German wasn't 
rather difficult. The next day she went back to England, and I am 
certain was not exaggerating when she said many and many a time 
afterwards that she had never been happier in her life than during 
that fortnight. 

Soon afterwards the Herzogenbergs left Leipzig, and I, who was 
going next day to Crostewitz (where I usually spent ten days or so 
before returning to Frimhurst), went to the station to see the last 
of them, as the phrase runs ... to see the last of them, as one 
says hundreds of times in a lifetime with an unforeboding heart. I 
remember few dates, but that date, May 7, will be remembered to 
my dying day. As the train moved off and slowly rounded the curve, 
I saw Lisl still waving at the window . . . never to see her again in 
this world, except in dreams. 

Germany and Two Winters in Italy 


From Elisabeth von Herzogenberg (Lisl) 

[Written to me -when I -was in Italy] 

Leipzig: November 5, 1882. 

(In German) . . . You ascribe to Hildebrand qualities he cer- 
tainly has not, and you know how much I like and am attracted 
by him. But he is a man who is only a good fellow just as long as 
his feeling lies that way, never from sense of duty: in principle he 
hates everything that binds duty, conscience, law (except the law 
of Beauty), and morality. Quietly, and without his realizing it, life 
has sometimes taught him better, but at bottom he is still the same. 
. . . On the other hand all you say about Julia delights me, and I 
subscribe to every word. I hope you will get closer and closer to each 
other, and that you may more and more feel the blessing her pres- 
ence brings with it. ... I do like your saying that you feel "like 
a great rough egoistic young colt" beside her! ... it is so true, yet 
how fond I am of you, my old one, in spite of all your vices! . . . 

I thought of you specially yesterday when Rubinstein was here. 
He played Schumann's F$ major and some glorious Chopins and 
was so dear and amiable and not at all in the love-making mood, 
thank Heaven. Though he was dead tired after rehearsing The Mac- 
cabees for four hours, he himself suggested playing, and but for one 
or two coarse touches in the Schumann played divinely. In a fit of 
good nature I had asked little A. to come, and she flirted beyond 
what is permissible with Nikisch. ( In English) He kissed her hand 
every time she poured him out wine; he's a regular Jack the Maiden 
Killer and I think if s quite a shame. She is, I think, quite naive, but 
rather silly. They have such terrible trouble at home, poor girls, 
that's why I asked her. . . . 

There are fine moments in The Maccabees but that's all (in Ger- 
man) and on the whole I have the impression of a creative action 
that is a necessity to the creator but not to the world. Feebleness 
is oddly mingled with plenty of temperament, much perfume, and 


Impressions that Remained 

very much colour; but . . . the fruit is dead. And this man main- 
tains in his blind madness that German "inwardness" (Inner- 
lichkeit] means nothing, or rather is another word for impotence, 
whereby of course he is thinking of Brahms! He said some nice 
things about the ugly Joachim affair, and thinks he started the 
whole business in order to marry an English Lady Somefcody! "If 
that is so," he added grimly, "then I have no use for his Beethoven 
Concerto and his inwardness and all the rest of it!" Though this is 
nonsense from the point of view of art, humanly speaking it was 
warm and sympathetic, and I was glad to hear the frivolous R. talk- 
ing in that style. 

I have not told you, I think, that Frau Joachim has been here 
and that I visited her in her hotel. I considered it my duty, though 
it wasn't easy, for I dreaded what the impression might be. But it 
was good beyond all expectation; she threw her arms round my 
neck, sobbing, and was so simple merely the mother, the lioness 
robbed of her cubs that I was deeply touched. Still I cannot get 
rid of the feeling that she has let herself drift in the direction of 
cheap, trivial, sentimental yearnings, and gazed forth right and left 
with immoderate lust of conquest; not with any evil intention, but 
after the fashion of people whose souls are poorly furnished. Things 
are different now; I think sorrow has ripened and ennobled her, and 
that took hold of me. Her despair when she speaks about the chil- 
dren (they have taken the daughters to England) is so touching. 
Imagine! not a soul, except Frau O. and myself went to see her, 
and in Berlin everyone cuts her so cowardly and evil is the world! 
And the worst of all are the virtuous women, who make me per- 
fectly furious. 1 

It is amusing to think of your giving Hildebrand lessons in coun- 
terpoint! Of course you are the one who will learn most, and that 
is the important part of it. I am glad you like Julia's children so 
much. I said you would. You'll get to understand Harry better by 
and by; he is not an easy subject! . . . 

1 Later, when Herzogenberg accepted a post offered him by Joachim at the 
Hochschule, Lisl did not call on Frau Joachim, who was still living in Berlin. 


Germany and T<wo Winters in Italy 

Leipzig: January 2, 1883. 

(In German) . . . Heinrich's Variations gave me immense pleas- 
ure. The thing came to him in a good hour; the theme is beautiful, 
finely articulated, prolific, and the variations are, as they should be, 
independent growths that nevertheless depend on the theme. I 
can't put it properly but you will know what I mean. A true theme 
for variations has a paterfamilias character that one recognizes at 
once, and the children should show heredity and yet each have its 
own individual physiognomy and value. . . . 

We heard Paradise and the Peri once more the other day and I 
loved it more than ever also ethically, though the poem moral- 
izes in such an infuriating fashion and is really impossible to enjoy. 2 
But even in the poem there are certain moments that transcend 
the temporal, and the repentant sinner is a figure that always makes 
me shed uncritical tears. Who can resist the words "There was a 
time when/' etc.? . . . The music is admirable almost through- 
out, and yesterday the scoring revealed to me a wealth of beauty 
I never noticed before, so much so that I asked myself: "Is it I who 
have learned to listen, or has it learned to sound?" We go but sel- 
dom to concerts, perhaps once in three weeks to the Gewandhaus, 
and for that reason I enjoy as never before, and am sometimes ut- 
terly overwhelmed with the sort of gratitude you know of as ex- 
pressed in the "Trilogy of Gratitude." But the longer I live, the 
more do I stand in stupid amazement before figures such as Bee- 
thoven and Mozart, increasingly beset with vain questionings. It is 
only because we are accustomed to them that we don't go off our 
heads, and though I sometimes long to read biographies, and now 
mean to start on Thayer, I see how childish it is to try to find the 
key to such miracles in records of lives and activities. Each night 
when such a one is born is a kind of Christmas Day, and the only 
thing that should sound in their honour is the Song of the Angels. 
I can't quarrel therefore with Spitta's tone of panegyric in his Life 
of Bach, but the word one longs to hear, which might bring one 
nearer to the secret of such creative power, is never said! The Ger- 
man Mystics might have managed it, but I think silence is best* 

2 Ungernessbar. 


Impressions that Remained 

Well, there is no end to learning in Art, and for that reason one 
might almost wish to reach extreme old age. 

Frau Schumann dined with us at the Wachs, after playing the 
Mendelssohn Concerto divinely. Lili was charming, but as regards 
her, Frau Schumann is in bonds. To thaw her requires a certain 
amount of initiative; if I hadn't taken my courage in both. hands 
with her from the first, she would never have shown me all her 
sweetness (Holdheit). . . . 


Hosterwitz: September 2, 1883. 

(In English) My oldest best darling, I am going to write you a 
letter in my flowingest English, all of it. Don't laugh. How dear and 
kind that little moist red electric letter of yours was, and how it 
caressed my soul and how gladly I poked it into my pocket after 
having read the descriptive parts of it to Henry and my father, who 
asked me (an hour after) if I liked red ink? "No," I said, "by no 
means, don't say so, nor does Ethel, but of course she can't have 
had ink in her hotel so the electric machine must do its best!" Old 
little one, how pleased I am you were pleased with that quaint old 
Rothenburg. My brother loves it above everything and I am truly 
sorry we couldn't be there together. We were so happy and peace- 
ful at Munich and I did enjoy you so, my Ethel, and felt over and 
over again how much it is to have you, and how happy I am about 
you, in spite of my unhappy moments. I think I couldn't be happier 
if you were always as you are sometimes (indeed often) and if that 
can console you for future times, write that behind your ears, old 

How glad she'll be now, at home once more and in new clean 
dresses and stockings, the poor lost child, wrapped up again in all 
the comfort and warmth and cosiness of home! I even feel what it 
must be like here in our poor halved home, without mother or 
sister, but there is something in sitting at the old table one had 
one's feet under as a child, and seeing again all the good old pic- 
tures, and green chairs, and forks and knives, that is not to be com- 
pared with anything else. And how much more so for you, whom 
a longed for sweet atmosphere of home embraces not only such 
little details and sisters, and little Bob and nice old butlers (that 

35 6 

Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

steal, but with attachment) and your beloved English land, your 
heath and your moor, your big trees and your village green! . . . O 
I envy you, my darling, the fullness of your joy and the strength 
of your impressions. I well know there's a shade on all that, and that 
its name is Rhoda, but I know too one is able to enjoy and suffer 
alternately, and at the same time nearly, in an incomprehensible 
and not less true way. I do hope your joy will have sunny strength 
enough not to let you feel the chill of the cloud. 

My darling, when will she go to Rustington and will she write 
immediately? And how's my leg and shoulder that I rubbed* and 
pinched, and does she always think of me as her best friend and 
worrier? for I worry you often, I know; but it being a part of me 
you must bear it, as I bear yours, my old darling, and love you iy)t 
less for all that, my child. 

Poor Lily! Her Kadi, as we call him you know, was really ill with 
gastric fever; and scarcely re-established, still quite week and slen- 
der and sentimental, away he marched, tempted again by his old 
tempter, "the Guide-Fox," 3 on a great and long excursion, leaving 
poor Lily in terror and dismay, but incapable of protest, as she al- 
ways is when those she loves shew a strong will. . . . Good-bye, 
my best child; 111 write better next time; it's my last dreadful pen. 

Write soon again and love your faithful 



Leipzig: October 8, 1883. 

(In German) . . . My reward for that tiresome time at Dresden 
was 10 days with Julia. How I enjoyed her! how proud I am of her 
both as human being and sister, and how happy I count myself to 
stand with her as I do! We talked a great deal mostly in passages 
and on staircases as usual, when there was neither time nor oppor- 
tunity. As questioner and listener she is always just what one wants, 
and has, among other wonderful qualities, that of pushing back 
everything in one that is weak and drawing out the best. . . . 


October 10, 1883. (In German) . . . Julia's children are charm- 
ing; they give me joy mingled with a little pain. At times I de- 
3 A mountain guide. 


Impressions that Remained 

lighted in them, freed from all thoughts of self, but there were 
weaker moments in which my own needs came between us and 
clouded my vision. When others are happy with their children, 
each laying a protecting hand on some little head, it hurts me that 
no one seems to think of me, and sometimes it is hard to fight down 
one's tears. One word would be enough to banish the mood, but no 
one says it. ... Whether all this never occurs to Julia, or whether 
she merely cannot find the word, I don't know; but this dead silence 
in the one region in which one needs help, and longs for one of 
those sympathetic touches that atone for so much and work such 
miracles, is amazing on the part of a being so richly endowed, and 
in many ways so generous; who, moreover, often refers to this or 
that incident obviously with the idea of pleasing and making one 
communicative. At times I am forced to conclude she has no no- 
tion how it is with me, how I have longed, how I still long, and 
what it has cost me to appear so calm. The terrible phrase we have 
so often laughed at: "knowing through pity" (durch Mitleid -wis- 
send) often recurred to me, and exactly expresses what I was asking 
for ... and didn't get. Once more you see how near you are to 
me, in that I tell you all this, certain that you know me well enough 
not to see any reproach in it; merely the confession that I am hu- 
man, and cannot associate with the gods without feeling that some- 
thing is lacking. . , . 


October 19, 1883. (In German) . . . Julia thought our Venice at- 
tempt last year a great mistake and that it was foolish of me to 
Taring two such elemental people as you and my mother together. 
She knows how to put herself in the place of both of you, and that 
is why it hurts me that such a many-sided being should evince no 
comprehension for my state of mind. That leaves you more indif- 
ferent, you incorrigible little wretch as usual chiefly interested in 
the great "I," and wanting to know what Julia said of you, and how 
she looked while saying it! ... At Aibling you would have entered 
more fully into my little troubles ... I remember one special eve- 
ning, and am not ungrateful, my child, but you know how slow I 
am at dropping one part and taking up another. And though I 
know I know the pedal-point is indestructible, in the mean- 

Germany and Two Winters in Italy 

time, what with your sorrow for a dead friend and your interest in 
a new living one I come off rather badly. . . . You say I made no 
allusion to your sad, sad letter from Rustington, but that was be- 
cause I felt that you alone could help yourself there . . . that I 
could not help you ... in fact I sometimes feel that I am of no 
real use to you at all merely the dumping-ground you need. 
Rhoda and the past, Julia and the future, are your real preoccupa- 
tions, and if I listen well, that is all you ask. 

... I have grown fonder of Harry than ever before, and though 
his views are not mine I respect the iron consistency with which 
he carries them out and accepts the consequences. I have met no 
one who is such a perfect, harmonious result of culture in the best 
sense of the word. Compared to him we are all peasants . . . but 
once in an unguarded moment Julia confessed to me that it was a 
strain (anstrengend) being his wife . . . this in spite of the deep 
love and intimacy between them! . . . 

... I don't think that phrase of hers about you which I quoted 
was meant ironically . . . but who shall interpret Julia? Yet how 
clear and limpid is the general impression (Gesammterscheinung) ! 
She said a nice thing about you that you have the rare and 
healthy quality of understanding that feelings of friendship fluctu- 
ate, are sometimes on the surface and at other times in the depths. 
I think I too can lay claim to this virtue and have successfully sur- 
vived many of your phases. But I do wish one could synchronize 
better and that people wouldn't dive just at the moment you want 
them most. . . . 

Ah! my Ethel, my child, let me tease you a little now and then 
for I am so fond of you! 


January 11, 1884. (In English) . . . Darling, of course I don't, 
how could I? find fault with you for thinking as you do of Julia, 
though I don't understand these things when they "monologise" 
is that the word? and in spite of Julia's kindnesses and considera- 
tion this is the case. Nor can I quite help feeling with a kind of bit- 
terness how very easily a miser like she seems to do marvellous 
things when she sends a chicken and a bottle of wine in your ill- 
ness. Of course where one economises one's effects the power is 


Impressions that Remained 

doubled, specially if one has to do with you, you old magnifying- 
glass but I think of myself and Lili who love you from the deep- 
est depths of our hearts . . . and it makes me sad! 


[The reference in this letter is to a String Quintet of mine that had 
just been produced at Leipzig.] 

January 27, 1884. (In German) . . . Yesterday was a great day, 
but until we saw how the public would like it the motherly hearts 
of Lili and myself beat horribly. One doesn't really enjoy the work 
of someone dear to you at a public performance (as I always feel 
when Heinrich's things are being done) and my real pleasure was 
at the rehearsal on Saturday, when my old heart beat with joy only. 
At the concert I was oppressed by a feeling almost of shame for the 
work of art thus laying bare its soul specially in the C$ minor 
movement, when I felt as if you were undressing before the horrid 
Leipzig publicl But luckily they know nothing about what that 
piece might tell them! In other respects, too, I listened differently 
as one of the public, in some ways more sharply; both I and Hein- 
rich noticed for the first time that there are too many stopping- 
places in the first movement, and afterwards made the remark to 
each other in the same breath. . . . Strange how clearly a wretched 
thing like a public makes one see; one is then feeling with the man 
in the street, more naively, more amateurishly at the same mo- 
ment more stupidly and more intelligently. . . . Thiirmer [the 
viola] played wonderfully in the Cj movement, especially the EJ 
at the end a point I drove into him well at the very first re- 
hearsal. . . . 

[The full significance of the following letters, written after our meet- 
ing in the summer of 1884, Wl *^ become apparent when the first chapter 
of Part III has been read] 


July 30, 1884. 

(In English) . . . Goodbye, my child, love me, and put up with 
me for I take pains to think myself into your soul. . . . The 
world is much too complicated for me, and I thank Heaven that 
there are some things deep and simple at the same time! . . . 


Germany and Two Winters in Italy 


August 11, 1884. 

(In German) . . . Believe in me, as I do in you, "beloved child. 
Whatever you ask of me would seem as nothing it is good to be 
united thus! I hold you to my heart; tell me you feel how I love 
you. . , , L. 

September 22, 1884. 

(In German) ... I will gladly read the articles on Flaubert and 
Baudelaire, but I believe more and more in the limitations of taste 
set by nationality. I am too German by instinct and education ever 
to feel more than respect for an "artist" like Flaubert. For me, the 
manure heap on which his flowers bloom never loses its stench 
(Gestank) a feeling every Frenchman would jeer at. The French 
indifference to subject-matter, whether in literature or in painting, 
is too foreign to our nature and notions; to us it is important what 
an artist use his powers on, not only how he uses them such is 
the tradition we have inherited from Schiller and Goethe and a 
puddle in which the sun reflects itself remains a puddle. But these 
gentlemen fancy that everything their magical pen touches is 
thereby lifted into the region of Art, and demand of their readers 
an indifference on this point that none but such as possess French 
culture can achieve. The consequence of that principle is that a 
dying frog may inspire as fine a work of art as the Virgin Mary a 
statement I myself was once obliged to sit and listen to! ... 

My darling, tell me often that you love me it strengthens me 
in the faith of being able to be something to you now! . . . 



October 5, 1884. 

(In German) ... So the Rontgens have played you the new 
Brahms symphony! another of my few musical joys taken from 
me! It always happens that when I have been specially counting on 
something of the sort as regards you, Fate snatches it away from 
me. I am ever too late! Not that I reproach the R/s for having 

Impressions that Remained 

played it to you, that would be too ridiculous, but I wish it had 
been I! Still I am delighted that you are so impressed and that the 
two movements you like best are my favourites. 

The Andante touches me as do few things in music, so restrained 
and, in spite of its tenderness, so virile an exquisite product 
of matured power. When first I heard it I thought involuntarily of 
a giant holding his breath for fear of waking a child. How adorable 
and beautifully articulated the first theme is and the divine G 
major bit! 


The man who can write that is not on the down-grade as Levi de- 
clares him to be; but Levi has become blind in that direction. . . . 

Last night I read the articles on Flaubert and Baudelaire. Bour- 
get's characterization of this literature as the Art of a Decadence 
of a subtle but dying culture is so exactly my own feeling that I 
ask nothing more in justification of my own antipathy. If a French- 
man, an admirer too of this Art, pronounces that sort of funeral 
oration on it, we who lack sympathy for it may well feel exon- 
erated! . . . 

Julia is in Berchtesgaden, Harry in the Sologne, where he has 
shot, so he writes to my father, i z /2 hares in 6 weeks! . . . 

(In English) We meet again then on Thursday! Good-bye, old 
friend of mine, well have a good time this winter, and you shall 
feel again the old, old story, that no one can love you truer than 



From My Mother 

[After Rhode? s death] 

November 1882, My own, own darling, I can think of nothing 
but you! I know so well how miserable you are such a dear, noble, 
charming woman and who loved you so! My darling how I wish I 


Germany and Two Winters ^n Italy 

were near just to hold your hand and listen to you talk of her. 
Would you like to come home for a bit? we will pay your journey; 
do, dear, if you have the least thought of liking to do so; it must be 
so hard to bear this great sorrow without anyone to share it that 
you care for. Papa sends his dear love. 


[After her visit to Leipzig] 

April 1885. My own darling, Here I am, safe and sound, and 
pronounced to be looking much better "more lively" for my de- 
lightful fortnight. How I enjoyed it no words can say, but you 
know, and it will always be such a source of retrospective happiness. 
We had a beastly enough passage this time but I did not give in! 
My own pet, don't forget to let me know my share of the coffee, 
tips, etc. at least two s and tell me how Frau von Herzogen- 
berg is and give her my love. I don't think she has an idea how I 
really do love her and would do anything in the world for her! I 
have been talking to the family till I am half dead, to say nothing 
of travelling without stopping from 12 yesterday till 12 to-day. I 
found a dear little note of welcome from Nina, who is at Bonning- 
tons and returns to-morrow. The dear girls V. and N. and Bob are 
quite well. I send you this photo of him to comfort you! do tell me 
how you like it. 
Ever, my own, dear, kind, thoughtful, loving girl, 

Your happy and devoted 


From Frau Livlct Frege 

Leipzig: February 10, 1884. 

My Ethel, I wonder if by any chance your thoughts are with 
me? For three weeks I have been laid up with a bad cough and may 
not leave my room. Every evening I lie for many hours thinking and 
thinking as often as not of you and I write you long imaginary 


Impressions that Remained 

letters that are nothing but Psalms of Thanksgiving for your affec- 
tion. I have been saying to myself that in all my life no one has ever 
cared for me in the way you do. Many have been kind to me, many, 
too, were fonci of me, but all these got something in return; it may 
have been assistance, amusement, pleasure in my singing, what you 
will there was something to offer in exchange for love. But you, 
who only knew me as a cross-grained old woman! . . . Real affec- 
tion is always a gift. I have often said to myself that you are the 
embodiment of a spirit that once upon a time, perhaps, lived in 
and rang out of my singing. When, in days gone by, I sang with 
passionate enthusiasm the Spring, the flowers, the birds, the human 
hearty I think the atoms transmogrified themselves into one who 
came to meet me in the form of love personified you! . . . 

Again a night lies between these lines. How often I conjure up 
the thought of your inner self; are you busy composing, or is the 
dull mood still on you? No! I feel certain that you are in good 
spirits again! I myself am weighed down by many things just now; 
how much there is in one's life that no words can convey! For ine, 
at such times, the aria in the Passion "Have mercy, Lord, on me" 
expresses it best; what unearthly things the violin says . . . how it 
laments with one! Only those who have suffered deeply can under- 
stand that aria. 

To turn to a very different subject, there is a masked ball here 
tomorrow; the young people are busy trying on costumes and in- 
venting new dances, and all Leipzig, that is to say that particular 
group, perambulates the streets in a state of mental intoxication. 
You ought to be here to invent something really funny; no one 
seems to have a notion how that sort of thing ought to be done. 

Forgive my bad writing; half my being is nervous aches and pains, 
but with my whole heart I embrace thee, beloved child. 

Always thy 



Part III 

CHAPTER XXXV. A Retrospect of 
1884-85 to Summer 1885 

JL HAVE now reached a difficult part of my memoirs, in that it is not 
possible for me to relate the inner history of an event that shaped 
my whole existence. The merest indications must suffice, such as 
will render the rest of my story intelligible, and above all throw 
light on what was for me the apex of the tragedy and the domi- 
nating fact of the years yet to be dealt with in these pages my 
severance from the Herzogenbergs. 

It is a question whether a sorrow such as a broken friendship can 
be allowed to assume in the written page the proportions it did 
in real life. Personally the dissolution of anything that once had 
strong vitality, from a civilization to a human bond, has always in- 
terested me even more than origins. I remember, for instance, how 
the gradual turning into hatred of SauTs love for David still to 
my mind one of the burning incidents in literature preoccupied 
me as a child, and it was the same with the disappearance of the 
Aztec civilization. Perhaps others feel as I do about this particular 
form of death in life. I hope so, for if the only claim to interest put 
forth by a writer is that his tale is faithfully told in every detail, 
how can one treat what went deepest as a side issue? It must be 
remembered that this friendship was the cornerstone of the keenly 
lived, complex sort of existence I have been trying to describe, and 
that when it gave way life had to be begun afresh which, as a 
wise woman I know once said, is a thing we must be prepared to 
do an indefinite number of times to the very end. But apart from 


Impressions that Remained [188485 

other considerations the case in question seems to me unusual, puz- 
zling, indeed almost inexplicable as psychological study. I spoke 
of a way of looking at moral problems, as with eyes devoid of eye- 
lashes, which even in the days of youthful enthusiasm struck me 
as characteristically German; it may be that in this experience with 
my friend I struck a primal strain of nationality. Be that as it may, 
after all these years I think I can undertake to tell the story fairly 
and without bitterness; almost as impersonally, too, as if it had hap- 
pened which sometimes seems to be the case to someone else. 
But first I must go back a little. 

It may be remembered that the Brewsters held unusual views 
concerning the bond between man and wife, views which up to the 
time of my arrival on the scene had not been put to the proof by 
the touch of reality. My second visit to Florence was fated to supply 
the test. Harry Brewster and I, two natures to all appearance dia- 
metrically opposed, had gradually come to realize that our roots 
were in the same soil - and this I think is the real meaning of the 
phrase "to complete one another" that there was between us 
one of those links that are part of the Eternity which lies behind 
and before Time. A chance wind having fanned and revealed at 
the last moment, as so often happens, what had long been smoul- 
dering in either heart, unsuspected by the other, the situation had 
been frankly faced and discussed by all three of us; and I then 
learned, to my astonishment, that his feeling for me was of long 
standing, and that the present eventuality had been not only fore- 
seen by Julia from the first, but frequently discussed between them. 
To sum up the position as baldly as possible,. Julia, who believed 
the whole thing to be imaginary on both sides, maintained it was 
incumbent on us to establish, in the course of further intercourse, 
whether realities or illusions were in question. After that and 
surely there was no hurry the next step could be decided on. This 
view H. B. allowed was reasonable. My position, however, was that 
there could be no next step, inasmuch as it was my obvious duty to 
break off intercourse with him at pnce and for ever. And when I 
left Italy that chapter was closed as far as I was concerned. 

I then went, as has been related, to Berchtesgaden, and there, 
accustomed as I was to lay bare my life before her, Lisl had learned 


1884-85] In the 'Desert 

all there was to know. Blame neither attached to me nor was laid 
at my door; we saw eye to eye in all points, and parted, as may be 
imagined, more closely if more tragically knit than ever. 

But before I had been many weeks in England it became mani- 
fest that the chapter was not closed after all, and a correspondence 
began between my two Florentine friends and myself which con- 
tinued throughout the following winter the winter which cul- 
minated in my mother's visit to Leipzig. The point under discus- 
sion was whether my policy of cutting the cable was appropriate to 
this particular case, whether it would not be to the advantage of all 
three of us (which was H. B/s contention) that he and I should 
continue friends not necessarily meeting, but at least correspond- 

If the people concerned in a drama such as this are respectively 
cruel, treacherous, faithless, or hypocritical, any and every develop- 
ment is conceivable; but in this case, insane as we may all seem, 
neither were H. B. and I bent on pursuing a selfish end regardless 
of giving pain, nor was Julia consciously playing a part. The story 
of those months a fantastic chapter in psychology will never 
be told by me, if only for the reason that it is not my story alone; 
what has been said must suffice and I think it will suffice more 
or less to explain Lisl's subsequent action. And if asked how I came 
to swerve from my decision not even to discuss the "friendship" 
theory, I can only say that the case was not as simple as it seems, 
and that a very genuine doubt existed in my mind as to how I ought 
to act a doubt shared at times, though I think against her better 
judgment, by Lisl herself. 

That winter was not a happy time for either her or me. Every 
turn in the situation, every action, every thought of my heart was 
known to her, and if those who were presently to hound the Furies 
in my direction had counted on having revelations to contribute 
they were disappointed. But the fact of my having gone back on 
my first decision not to discuss the matter disquieted her pro- 
foundly. She knew and allowed that I was not playing for my own 
hand, but her simple instinctive nature, distrustful of subtleties and 
superhuman points of view, clung to the proved ways of tradition 
rather than the road I was travelling. On the other hand, to admit 


Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

her contention that all wives feel the same in certain cases, human 
nature being always bound to have the last word, would to my 
mind have implied scepticism where I felt profound faith, as also 
to drag a proud banner and it was not my banner only in the 
mud. Thus there were interminable and sometimes distressing ar- 
guments distressing especially for her since she was not sure of 
her ground. But I was, or thought I was, sure enough of mine; 
borne along by the strongest, most intoxicating wind that drives 
human souls before it, being moreover the only person among those 
concerned who had taken her into confidence, as often as not I 
ended by bringing her round to my point of view in other words 
I dragged her out of her orbit. 

It is easy afterwards to say, as some of her critics did, that she 
ought to have stood up to me better. Later on she ascribed her 
quasi-acquiescence in the situation to affection for me; but a greater 
reason was her own uncertainty, and the greatest, perhaps, the 
moral and physical shrinking of a diseased heart from perpetual 
warfare. And all this time she was suffering . . . suffering; but her 
self-control and power of making the moment suffice were such 
that not till years afterwards did I realize it fully. 

Thus the winter wore on. Shortly before we parted that May 
morning, one of her relations, I think her brother, had written to 
her insinuating things so unjust and cruel about me that every other 
feeling had been overborne by the old faithful protecting love 
which, in spite of some difficult moments, had never really failed 
me. Let one trivial incident show how impossible it was for me to 
foresee what was to happen, how far she herself was from foresee- 
ing it. That evening I took her some roses; she was out, and next 
day the following little note arrived, written in her quaint English 
(which signified, in later years, a harking back to the tender spring- 
time days of our friendship) -signed, for the last time, with the 
name she had given herself: * 

Your roses touched me deeply, rny darling. I am quite warmed up by 
their scent and colour, and soothed by their nice cool touch. It was 
something so new and old at the same time to get flowers from you, and 
you don't know the pleasure you made me. What pleasure little things 
can sometimes make! Darling, have faith in my faith. I have a heavy 
heart and still I enjoy somehow the idea of having to fight for you, for 


1884-85] In the Desert 

my true loyal child. Don't distrust me when a word seems sometimes to 

contradict me! Credo, credo in te! 


From Leipzig she went straight to Dresden, where she was to en- 
counter the brother, but before they had met she wrote me a long 
letter to Crostewitz, in which the differences between us are once 
more threshed out; full of tenderness and pain, it ends thus: 

Ethel! child of my sorrow! ... I was too tired and miserable, after 
all, to write in the train, so waited till I got here, but I doubt if the re- 
sult will give you much pleasure! Farewell! . . if I loved you less how 
little I should suffer! 


Meanwhile, as various wild reports had reached my host and 
hostess, who knew that whole Florentine group, I told them the real 
story in confidence, informed Lisl I had done so, and waited day 
by day in great agitation for news of what was happening in Dres- 
den. It was our custom to write to each other once a week, some- 
times oftener, and now, at the most critical moment of our lives, 
dead silence! . . . Not till I was back in England did the longed- 
for letter, dated June 15, arrive, and if in comparison with others 
I was to receive later it is still almost loving, there was a new tone 
in it the work of disintegration had begun. Its gist was that our 
common life could not continue for the present, and that if it gave 
me as much pain to read these words as her to write them, she 
thought I would nevertheless see, on reflection, that it was in- 
evitable. Of breach not a word; on the contrary entreaties for 
"good" letters that should show her I understood and accepted the 
situation. This was not all however; reproaches were levelled 
against others, demands made, past incidents raked up, and my 
replies were as may be imagined; in fact it was a correspondence 
between two worn-out people, disputing as to which particular 
wave had cast the vessel on the rocks, and whether shipbuilder, 
chartmaker, or captain was to blame. 

Suddenly her letters ceased altogether. As I afterwards learned, a 
new figure had now come on the scene, a woman whose chronic 
jealousy was a legend, and who during my long spell of delightful 
intercourse with her and her husband had had cause, in early days 


Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

perhaps during a week for jealousy. It had happened long 
ago, the whole thing was utterly harmless, born of high spirits and 
vanity, indeed more jocular on both sides than anything else; still 
it was the only time in my life I had done anything distantly ap- 
proaching to what Lady Ponsonby called "prigging hairpins" and 
no doubt I deserved the drubbing administered by Lisl after con- 
fession. Since this peccadillo jealousy had died down as well it 
might and all three of us had been the best of friends and com- 
rades ever afterwards. 

It is only fair to say that this lady was much attached to Julia 
Brewster, and rather late in the day had developed into a strong 
upholder of the domestic hearth as beseems a convert, a jealous 
woman, and a mother; all the same I sometimes wonder whether in 
that summer of 1885 some real cause of complaint against her hus- 
band accounted for the zeal with which they both joined in the 
hue and cry led by my old enemy. Men and women are mean on 
different lines, and there is a particular sort of male meanness in- 
herent in the relations of the sexes which permits erring husbands 
to go great lengths in the way of propitiation; otherwise I cannot 
account for this belated double-barrelled zeal against me. But its 
effect was deadly, for it appears to have been a necessity of LisFs 
nature to harden her heart against me before she could summon up 
courage to break our bond; and just because these two were by way 
of being my friends, their influence told where ancient animosity 
such as that of her relations would probably have achieved nothing. 

I meanwhile was at Frimhurst, asking myself in anguish what 
could be the meaning of this second, still more terrifying silence. 
Clotilde Limburger was staying with us, as arranged between our 
respective mothers in April. I know that my sisters, who were of 
her own age, delighted in her, and I believe she enjoyed herself, 
but the rest is a mist. Only one thing stood out clearly in connec- 
tion with her coming, that, given provincial conditions, it was 
wonderful of Frau Limburger to let her come at all; for Leipzig 
was already gossiping about Lisl and me, and it would have been 
easy to find some pretext for postponing the visit. But none was 
put forward, and though there may have been a suspicion at home 
that something was wrong, no one said anything, and life went on 
as usual. 


1884-85] In the Desert 

At length in August came a letter in which only the exquisite 
handwriting she used German characters and made them strong, 
flowing, and decorative reminded me of Lisl. As I said before, 
there were no fresh accusations to bring, but everything I was and 
ever had been was drawn by the hand of a stranger almost of an 
enemy. It appeared I was a Juggernaut car driven by a "Lebens- 
teufel," or rather a wild horsewoman blinded by self-love, gallop- 
ing rough-shod over all I met. It was conceded that I was innocent 
of desire to wreck any fellow mortal's happiness, least of all that of 
a woman I dearly loved, but of what avail, asks the writer, are inno- 
cence and excellent intentions if none the less devastation marks 
your path? . . . And harshly as she judged me, the rest of the situ- 
ation she gauged correctly; reading what she had to relate, as one 
divorced from theories and at last in contact with the realities of a 
situation, it became evident to me that human nature had indeed 
prevailed over superhumanity. The scales fell from my eyes and I 
suddenly saw myself, not as co-adjutor in a noble reading of Des- 
tiny, but simply as thief of someone else's goods. . . . 

Lisl had spoken of devastation; but if for a passing moment there 
was a phase that seemed to come under that heading, the chief 
agent was the evil genius of that group, my old enemy. Where 
tact, wisdom, moderation, fairness were needed, bitter, reckless vio- 
lence held the field but that too I only learned long afterwards; 
meanwhile what more obvious than that I, and I alone, was re- 
sponsible for everything? ... To return to the letter, I was up- 
braided for venturing to reproach the writer for her long silence, 
for mentioning my own pain at all in this connection, seeing what 
others were suffering, for speaking as if I had any claim on her as 
compared to the claims of others. Then came bitter self-reproaches 
for having played her part so ill during the past winter, and I 
guessed she felt that from the first her line should have been: "Act 
thus and thus, or our friendship must come to an end." Would it 
have changed anything? Possibly for the time being for life 
was inconceivable to me without Lisl; but no such ultimatum had 
been presented an omission for which she was never to forgive 
herself. Finally she wrote that her expiation must be to give me up 
that the only reparation I could make was to accept the fact . , . 
and disappear. Hardly believing my eyes, I read that, given my fac- 

37 1 

Impressions that Remained [ 1 8 84-8 5 

ulty of getting all there was to be got out of life, I should no doubt 
find consolation; and last of all, what cut me to the heart most, 
came the words: "the foundering of our little boat is but an epi- 
sode in the general shipwreck/' . . . 

Reliving this shock, as I did the other day thirty-three years after- 
wards, it seems to me strange that I did not go mad. For seven years 
my life had been as inextricably mixed up with the Herzogenbergs' 
lives, whether musically or humanly, as if I really had been their 
own child; so much so that when, owing to her parents' jealousy, I 
had to keep away from the house even for a day or two, it seemed 
to us a small tragedy. And such was rny bottomless faith in Lisl that 
though her letters abound in protestations of undying fidelity a 
thing that strikes me curiously now in none of mine is to be 
found the slightest word to call them forth. As soon would I have 
asked a promise from the sun to rise daily. If therefore the idea of 
even a temporary separation seemed to me, at first, monstrous, the 
core of the anguish was suddenly finding myself confronted with a 
total stranger. Had she written words such as these: "However long 
our parting may last, if for ever and ever, believe in my faith and 
love as I do in yours; keep my picture bright and untarnished before 
your eyes, as I will yours before mine/' then I think or so it 
seems to rne now that I could have achieved resignation. Of 
course her "distress" is spoken of, but every word which could sug- 
gest that our past was a living, aching memory in her heart seemed 
to have been carefully eliminated. 

I wrote to her, bewildered, appealingly, in despair, and received 
one or two more letters in reply, each colder than the last; finally, 
on September 3, in the very words I should use today, I bade her 
farewell till better days should dawn, and silence fell between us 
a silence to be broken by her, for one brief moment only, two 
years later. 

As epilogue to this part of my story let me say that I am now old 
enough to realize how great a rdle our own hopes and desires play, 
without our knowing it, in the shaping of our course. This con- 
ceded, I can only say my mistaken reading of Julia's soul was honest, 
and that if that time were to be lived through again, I believe, given 


1884-85] In the Desert 

the lights I then possessed, that I should act as I did then; to do 
otherwise would have been to use a measure unfit for the standard 
of that case as I saw it. This I know; into that mistake of mine I 
put better stuff than into many a blameless enterprise of later 
years; and after all, if, as I said, the word "success" does not mean 
for me all it implies, still less does the word "failure"; how will our 
wisdom and our foolishness look to us in another world? Neverthe- 
less I had been faithless to my own instincts and for that the 
penalty had to be paid. The strands of what was to become the fun- 
damental friendship of my life were severed, not to be re-joined for 
many years. I burned my boats and went into the desert. 

And now the question was how my future life should be shaped. 
Lili Wach, who had suspected nothing, was now told all as far 
as such things can be told in letters. She never admitted for a mo- 
ment that the breach could be anything but a passing necessity, and 
urged that for more reasons than one it was my obvious course to 
vanish for a while from the German scene. If I effaced myself in 
every way, the waters would surely subside, whereas my presence 
among people who knew us both could only increase the gossip, tur- 
moil, and bitterness. Eventually I came to be of this opinion, and 
the fact that Herzogenberg was to enter on his duties in Berlin, not 
in 1886, but that very autumn, simplified matters. So I took the 
hardest resolution of my life to remain quietly in England in- 
stead of going back to face the situation, which was my passionate 
desire. It was never easy to work at home but I then believed I 
should never again work anywhere. 

My mother, now fully informed, was perfect; the Leipzig visit 
had shown her my normal life abroad, and having learned to love 
Lisl she knew exactly what the breach signified in every sense. Be- 
ing at bottom a very reasonable woman, she maintained that for the 
time being Lisl had probably no choice but to break off relations; 
but she too felt certain that inasmuch as no one accused me of any- 
thing but blindness and lack of judgment, all would come right in 
the end. 

Meanwhile Lili Wach hoped much, and so did I, from a meeting 
between her and Lisl (hitherto successfully evaded by the latter) 
which was to come off in the early winter. But this last and best 


Impressions that Remained [1884-85 

card was played in vain. It was impossible, wrote Lili, to elicit any 
satisfactory explanation of her attitude towards me. She had 
begun by saying it was forced upon her by others, then retracted 
and passionately declared it was herself who willed it so. The 
separation . . . yes, Lili Wach had answered that I too ac- 
cepted now as inevitable; but how should I or anyone who had 
watched our relation all these years understand the accompanying 
circumstances? how came Lisl, for instance, to forward to her the 
letter of a third person who knew me but superficially, and who 
held that at bottom I was of a light nature, one incapable of deep 
feeling, who played with human material as a sculptor plays with 
clay? I can imagine the gentle, mordant irony with which Lili 
would ask how the judgment of an outsider could possibly affect 
that of people who had known me for years and years? . . . and 
perhaps poor Lisl regretted that piteous attempt at self-justification. 
Then Lili had tried by every means in her power to hold up before 
unwilling eyes the picture of their common friend, feeling the while 
that she was achieving nothing. At last, after repeated entreaties 
not to pursue the subject, it had been dropped as hopeless, and 
therewith a painful interview had come to an end. 

There is a wonderful poem by Goethe about the way the gods 
lead you into mischief and pass on, leaving you to bear the conse- 
quences as best you may. Often and often I thought of that poem 
in connection with the activities of the couple I spoke of; for this 
letter, the stone that brought down the avalanche, was from the 
husband! Surely there was something fantastic and impersonal 
about such a Nemesis for a harmless little flirtation . . . ? For that 
reason I bore these blind instruments of Fate no grudge and met 
them with pleasure in after years. 

I will not dwell upon other incidents of those nightmare months, 
on the campaign of defamation embarked in by my old enemy, at 
Florence and elsewhere, reports of which, reached my mother and 
must have cut her to the heart. At last Conrad Fiedler wrote to Lisl 
urging her to break her damning silence a silence the world could 
but interpret in one way: namely, that I had committed some hei- 
nous crime, and that my best friend, having now found me out, 
had repudiated me. Her reply was that those whose feelings it was 
her first duty to consult asked but one thing of her, to discuss the 


1885-86] In the Desert 

matter with no one, and that she was bound to respect that wish! 
. . . Finally I made up my mind to return to Leipzig in about a 
year's time, come what may a decision approved by the Fiedlers., 
who insisted that I should begin by staying at Crostewitz. Thus the 
world would see that they, who possessed all the facts, knew I had 
done nothing disgraceful. 

Before passing on, one word. . . . The other day, re-reading that 
indictment of LisFs, I felt, and remembered feeling at the time, 
that much of it was true; indeed, I have seldom received a similar 
letter, unless from the obviously stupid and malignant, without 
realizing that herein lies the sting. The whole difference between 
real friends and people who, without being active enemies, are not 
well disposed towards you is that the former see your faults but 
love you because of certain other qualities, whereas the latter see 
the faults only and not unnaturally dislike you. And even in the 
case of active hatred and malice how comes it that just such and 
such a monstrous charge is brought? You know it is untrue; the left 
arm happens to be too long; but what makes it appear too short to 
the eye of ignorance or malevolence? Where is the error, and can it 
be corrected without imperilling something essential? 

This has always seemed to me a great problem not only in char- 
acter but in art, and that is why I mention it here. 

CHAPTER XXXVI. Summer 1885 to Autumn 1886 

AN the course of that summer of 1885 Violet became engaged to 
Dick Hippisley, an admirer specially backed by Aunt Judy, and of 
course a member of the Corps she favoured. It was evidently some- 
one's duty to set the ball rolling, for one day the station-master at 
Farnborough had remarked to Harry Davidson: "Your good lady 
and Miss Mary were snapped up pretty quick, but this lot don't 
seem to go off somehow." The event greatly excited the many 


Impressions that Remained [1885-86 

mothers of marriageable daughters, who abound in neighbourhoods 
such as ours. One of these, my dear Mrs. Napier, who was still in 
command at Sandhurst, met my mother on the platform shortly 
after the engagement became known: "O iny dear Mrs. Smyth/' she 
cried before all the porters, "I do congratulate you! . . . that nice 
Mr. Hippisley! . . . Do tell him he could have had any two of my 
girls for the asking, and welcome!" This engagement, and the fact 
that Dick Hippisley celebrated the occasion by at once christening 
us "the Smyth Family Robinson," are the only incidents, together 
with Clotilde Limburger's visit, that I can recall during that sum- 
mer. But an event was soon to happen which profoundly affected 
my whole outlook. 

That autumn, staying up at Muirhouse, I met Harry's sister-in- 
law, wife of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, then Dean of 
Windsor. Following my principle of not speaking of the living, I 
will only say that thanks to her friendship, the kindness of the 
Dean, and that house of refuge the Deanery, life became possible 
to me during the next two years. Shortly after our first meeting, 
Edith Davidson introduced me to one whom she considered a 
greater physician of souls than herself, Mrs. Benson (of her I shall 
speak later, for alas! while these pages are being written she has 
died), and between these two everything that human beings can 
do to help a fellow mortal was done. I began taking organ lessons 
at Windsor of Sir Walter Parratt revelling in Bach as played by 
him, who better than any organist I have ever met knows how it 
should be done and worked steadily all round; far better too than 
I thought at the time. And, last but not least, I was, as ever, liberally 
mounted throughout that winter by Charlie Hunter. 

In March 1886, no doubt to the gratification of our well-wisher 
at Farnborough Station, another of the younger batch of Miss 
Smyths "went off," Nina marrying Herbert Hollings, a neighbour- 
ing young squire whom my father extolled as a coming political in- 
fluence in the county, and whom I thought equally highly of be- 
cause he had played cricket for Winchester, racquets for his college 
at Oxford, and was good all round at games. 

I have never been able to understand how great trouble can pre- 
clude the enjoyment of certain sides of life. A good hunt, a hard 
game of tennis, a close golf match, an amusing situation how can 

37 6 

1885-86] In the Desert 

these ever cease to appeal? And above all, if once you get started, 
what can rob you of the thrill, the blessed oblivion of work? Thus it 
came that I lived many delightful hours during that period of exile, 
not only in the winter but in the ensuing summer, when I spent 
much of my time with the Hippisleys. They had rented an exquisite 
little sixteenth-century house, Queen Down Warren, near Sitting- 
bourneone of the loveliest parts of England and of their 
young friend and landlord, Harry Faussett Osborne, I have a par- 
ticularly sympathetic recollection because once when we were pass- 
ing a very rich manure heap he spat and then said: "I beg your 
pardon, but we are on spitting terms, aren't we?" I then learned 
for the first time that this is a hygienic precaution. 

But another neighbour of the Hippisleys was really an excep- 
tional personality, a certain Major Templer belonging to the Bal- 
loon Section of the R.E. at Chatham, a sort of Wild Man of the 
West whose hobby it was to pick up for a few pounds horses 
deemed unmanageable, tame them, and sell them in the shires for 
three figures if possible with the rider "has carried a lady." He and 
I suited each other to perfection (among other things he was pas- 
sionately fond of being sung to) , and I did more methodical school- 
ing that summer than ever before or since, not to speak of many 
loans of half-tamed horses during subsequent hunting seasons. One, 
a magnificent fencer, gave me a nasty fall; apparently slightly off 
his head from the first, he suddenly went quite mad and hurled 
himself sideways over some rails during a check. They afterwards 
discovered that the cantle of the saddle had snapped and was bor- 
ing a hole in his back. We all remember thundering full gallop 
under the gateway of Leeds Castle doubled up on the top of Major 
Templer's coach, the scratch team of hunters-on-the-make having 
been out of hand for a couple of miles or so, and how he remarked 
when they carne to a standstill, disordered and amazed, in the quad- 
rangle: "I thought they'd have to pull up here." And I also remem- 
ber squeezing with him into the basket of a diminutive captive 
balloon, dressed in my habit, and what a tight fit it was even then, 
the balloon being built for one aeronaut only; and how the com- 
pany of R.E/s hanging on to the rope soon found themselves ca- 
reering through the fields over hedges and ditches, some of them 
on their backs* Thus we progressed, at less than an angle of 45 


Impressions that Remained [1885-86 

with the ground, for half a mile or so, and eventually fetched up 
in a friendly tree. The delightful thing about Major Templer was 
that if out for a spree of this kind, trifles such as a rapidly rising 
wind never stopped him. 

I don't know if ever before in the history of the world the honour 
of a very harum-scarum man has been saved thanks to the astonish- 
ing memory of a woman who kept no diary, but this is what hap- 
pened to Major Templer. One day he arrived at the Warren 
slightly, only slightly, perturbed: a ballooning secret, something to 
do with a valve, had been betrayed to the Italian military authori- 
ties, and his senior, a certain Major X, had been heard saying that 
in his opinion Templer was the traitor. The two men notoriously 
hated each other, and at that moment our friend was more amused 
than angry. But next day a strange thing happened; he found a 
blackbird with its beak cut off nailed to his door, and being versed 
in the symbolism of the country folk, with whom he was on excel- 
lent terms, knew this was a friendly warning that the "beaks" were 
after him and that if guilty he had better "fly" the country. Two 
days later the Hippisleys got a note from him saying he was under 
arrest at Chatham and would they come at once? It appeared that 
everything depended on his being able to account satisfactorily for 
his whereabouts on three given days in the month before last a 
serious undertaking for a man who forgot today where he had been 
yesterday but since he and the Hippisleys were constantly meet- 
ing, he thought that perhaps they could help him. 

Now, Violet is blessed with a fabulous memory, so much so that 
when she was a tiny child Johnny used to amuse himself by teach- 
ing her the names of all the Derby winners for decades upon dec- 
ades. Casual visitors were put on to ask her suddenly: "What horse 
won the Derby in such and such a year?" and never was she caught 
tripping. On this occasion, therefore, she applied herself hopefully 
to the task of reconstructing Major Templer's past, working from 
dates it was possible to fix, such as a golden wedding, a meet of the 
hounds, the painting of the Warren animals' portraits, and so on. 
One more interview with the prisoner and the task was accom- 
plished, nor could a Q.C. sent down to cross-examine her find a 
flaw. She was subpoenaed, the trial began, and she drove into Chat- 
ham four days running, but was never called, as the case for the 

1885-86] In the Desert 

prosecution collapsed; the Government withdrew the charge, and 
Major Templer 'left the court without a stain on his character/ 7 

It was a monstrous business., and our friend St. John Brodrick, 
who was then at the War Office, subsequently asked Violet why 
she had not written to him at once instead of letting them make 
such fools of themselves? Her reply was that no one could suppose 
the authorities would start a case like that on such flimsy evidence; 
after which it is unnecessary to remark that Violet was then a very 
young woman. 

I have always had a passion for walking-tours, and in the sum- 
mer of 1886 the Hippisleys, their retriever Hurry, and I embarked 
on a tour in Cornwall, which began with an absurd incident set in 
the atmosphere of a recently married man's tender susceptibilities. 
Arrived at Falmouth, whence we were to proceed on foot, Violet 
suddenly remembered that a former admirer, a Mr. S. ? had a beau- 
tiful house on the bay and also a sailing yacht, so a letter was des- 
patched announcing our arrival. It soon became evident that her 
friend, who instantly presented himself, was not clear in his mind 
as to which of us was Mrs. Hippisley, and as it seemed advisable 
in order to get the maximum of favours out of him to leave the 
matter in doubt, I persuaded her to take off her wedding-ring. Alas! 
the plan succeeded only too well, and ere long, at Dick's earnest 
entreaties, the ring was restored to its place; and to his honour be it 
said our host bore the shock like a man, his kindness suffering no 
diminution. Among other places he took us to was a long spit of 
rocky land, half buried in monster geraniums, fuchsias, and roses. 
At its extreme end was a beautiful old church, the eighty-year-old 
parson of which had spent three-quarters of his life lying flat on a 
scaffolding under the roof, patiently covering beam after beam with 
fantastic carving. The light was too bad to judge of the result, but 
this vision of an old man who knew how to live needed no special 

On the other hand, for quite other reasons, I shall never forget 
a very hot morning in Falrnouth waters a dead calm, and that 
dreadful little yacht rocking in a slight swell, while each of us 
drearily trailed a mackerel line and hated nice Mr. S. for continu- 
ally telling us we had caught a fish and should haul it in. At length 


Impressions that Remained [1885-86 

one of us crudely suggested the boat and we were rowed to shore 
in the nick of time, having the presence of mind to take with us 
the luncheon we had hitherto been unable even to look at. Once 
safe on the beach it seemed incredible that we could ever have 
loathed the very idea of dressed crab. 

Our general plan was to begin by walking along the coastguard 
path to Land's End, and as Violet's head was not good, Hurry's 
collar was buckled round her waist and Dick led her by the chain 
like a monkey. Once when he and I scrambled down to a cove to 
bathe, a huge boulder of serpentine decorously dividing us, she was 
chained up aloft lest she should slip or become affected with the 
madness of the Gadarene swine. Economy being our principle, we 
afterwards held a laundry festival in the cove, to assist at which Vio- 
let was carefully piloted down, and then for the first time we no- 
ticed, having to carry them ourselves, that things washed in the 
sea never dry. This was one of the many occasions when Violet, 
asked to take a short cut across a wide, dull peninsula, refused to 
play the walking-tour game and sent Dick off to "raise anything on 
wheels/' Soon we were driving six miles to the nearest town in an 
ancient wagonette, from every anatomical projection of which inti- 
mate garments hung flapping in what is called in those parts a 
gentle breeze. 

All together I wasted much breath on that tour trying to check 
Violet's backslidings from austerity. There were arrivals not on 
foot at hotels, where what I thought over-sumptuous repasts 
were ordered for themselves and Hurry by the other two, Dick, 
though a frugal eater, being in the early acquiescent stage of mar- 
ried life and loth to leave his wife alone with her soaring appetite. 
As it was my great ambition to keep somewhere near our estimate 
of daily expenditure, at last I proposed ordering two dinners and 
one plate of scraps for the dog, the result to be divided among us. 
The plan was adopted, no one went hungry, and we "put threes" 
into the bills. But when it came to Dick ordering a pint of cham- 
pagne for the exhausted Violet, and suggesting that three should 
be put into that bill too, this essay in finance was rejected by me, 
and what is more Dick never heard the last of it. 

It is difficult not to launch into a paragraph beginning: 'The 
beauties of this most romantic county exceeded all expectation"; 


1885-86] In the Desert 

taking that as written, I will go on to say that Gladstone's first 
Home Rule Bill had just foundered the Liberal Party, and through- 
out our wanderings two things struck us: firstly the beautiful dic- 
tion of the country folk, which reminded one of Highlanders' talk, 
and secondly the sensibleness of the questions constantly addressed 
to us as visitors from the Far East. Again and again we would hear 
the remark: "Mr. Gladstone is a very clever man, but so are Lord 
Hartington and John Bright and good men too, both of them. 
Now why are they against the bill?" and in spite of Papa's and my 
opinion of radicals I conceived great hopes for the future since 
character still seemed a factor in politics. At Helston we chanced 
on a political meeting at which Mr. Courtney, afterwards Lord 
Courtney, was to speak, and for the first time in my life I entered 
the political arena with a volley of questions. I knew my facts, and 
was inordinately flattered when the chairman remarked with some 
irritation that "notice ought to have been given of this very severe 
cross-examination." What with our excitement at finding a meeting 
on, and pushing in with the crowd, we had forgotten Hurry's exist- 
ence, and when we emerged he was nowhere to be seen. He was an 
exceptionally sagacious dog however, and Violet declared that as in 
his place she would go back to the four crossroads we had passed 
just before reaching the town and wait, no doubt we should find 
him there. And sure enough, there he was^ sitting motionless and 
staring with all his eyes down the Helston road. 

Many years afterwards Violet met Lord Courtney and asked him 
if he remembered that Home Rule meeting? He replied: "Most 
vividly," and told her he had often wondered who the questioner 
was. If not too polite he might have added "in such an extraordi- 
nary get-up," for the talent so many women possess of presenting 
a workmanlike and at the same time pleasing appearance has been 
denied me. When I rang at the front door of -the house my dear 
Mrs. Benson had lived in when her husband was Bishop of Truro, 
the footman politely informed me the back door was round there 
behind the laurel bushes. 

As regards climbing and what are called risky adventures, JDick 
and I were of one mind and body. I particularly remember a visit 
to one of those tin mines that run for miles under the sea. Clad in 
revolting garments that greasy clay had stiffened to the texture of 

Impressions that Remained [1885-86 

armour, we clambered down a narrow shaft by a perpendicular lad- 
der, the rungs of which were coated with the same deposit. The 
descent seemed interminable. All the time a huge vertical beam, the 
mine pump I believe, rose and fell, groaning and throbbing, within 
nine inches of our shrinking backs; and as we passed gallery after 
gallery, pinpoints of light fastened themselves on to the beam or 
were shed in passing, as men kept stepping on and off this agitating 
moving ladder. 

In the meantime, while Dick and I were in the bowels of the 
earth, Violet was having a nice little experience about which hangs 
the peculiar odour of dissenting circles. Getting bored with waiting, 
she decided to go home, and an overseer of some sort kindly offered 
to show her the road; but on the way his attentions became so 
pressing that the situation needed firmness and presence of mind. 
As they approached the village, however, this unpleasant individual 
begged her to fall behind and follow him from a distance, lest to 
be seen walking with a strange young lady might compromise 
him!! . . . 

But far and away the most vivid of our Cornish impressions 
indeed, one of the supreme memoirs of my life is a celebrated 
cave in the Scilly Islands called "the Piper's Hole/' the mouth 
which is only just above high-water mark; and as the passage you 
are invited to enter runs down hill in a fairly steep incline, you start 
in a far from neutral frame of mind. Turning to the right, you are 
in complete darkness, and the first of a bundle of torches is lit and 
stuck in an iron ring fixed in the cave wall, while the thunder of 
boulders pushed to and fro by the breakers seems hardly three feet 
above your head. As you go on, the passage winds and narrows, and 
ever fresh torches are stuck into further rings, till the walls meet in 
a V point and you think this is the end of all things. Not at all; 
you squeeze through a crevice, the last torch is kindled, and lo! a 
second cave, its floor a little blue fresh-water lake full of fishes. The 
guide waves his torch to and fro, almost touching the surface, but 
without disturbing the quiet circling movement below; then you 
realize with a slight shock that these tiny silver fishes are blind. And 
to complete a vision of the underworld that might belong in the 
Eleventh Book of the Odyssey, there, on the other side, attached to 
a massive chain, black and motionless, lies Charon's boat! ... A 


1885-86] In the Desert 

cleft in the rugged dome was pointed out to us, and we were told 
that it led by difficult tortuous ways to the land above and was nego- 
tiable with the aid of ladders and ropes; but seeing on our faces 
a strong desire to try it, the guide hastily added: "So Fve heard tell, 
but I daresay there's no truth in it!" And unfortunately we had no 
time to put the matter to the test. 

Other abiding impressions of Cornwall are the incredible colour 
of the serpentine rock all round the promontory, either dark fiery 
red or dark fiery green; Tintagel, where Dick and I undertook a 
really perilous climb; the wonderful line of cliffs called Bedruthan 
Steps, against which gigantic waves for ever dash, no matter what 
the weather, as they do on the coast of Clare; and finally the Vale of 
Lanherne, of which it may be said that one thing alone conveys an 
idea of such beauty the name. There is a large Roman Catholic 
convent there, with a fine picture or two in the church, and it was 
pleasant in that ultra-Nonconformist district to hear the nuns spoken 
of with so much love and admiration. 

We all four enjoyed that Cornish tour rrom beginning to end, 
but for me it lies in my memory wrapped in a tissue of gold, for 
many years afterwards the Piper's Hole suggested the scene of the 
Third Act in my opera The "Wreckers. Indeed on this tour were 
gathered the legend and most of the impressions which, passed on 
to H. B. as one might hand rough sketches and a palette to a 
painter were wrought by him into the libretto he wrote for me. 

As for that last scene, I shall probably not live to see my dream 
realized. These things can only be adequately tackled in countries 
where there is a genuine popular demand for opera, and conse- 
quently a subsidy, part of which is devoted to a thing the public 
insists on the production of new works. At Munich in 1914 the 
most astonishing machinist I ever met brought his genius to bear 
on the Piper's Hole decoration with enthusiasm, inventing a device 
for bringing the sea right on to the stage; and the ideal performance 
of The Wreckers, for which I had waited ten years, was to have 
taken place on February 20, 1915! 

But in this country the only necessities of life recognized by our 
ratepayers are things like drains and water-supply and thus it will 
be in England for ever and ever. 


Impressions that Remained [1886-87 

CHAPTER XXXVII. Autumn 1886 to Autumn 1887 

As the time for my return to Leipzig drew near, my mother did 
what she had often suggested doing and what Lili Wach had urged 
should be done she herself wrote to Lisl. What she said I do not 
know though I can well imagine. The reply was a singularly beautiful 
letter, written in German. Gentle and implacable, it is mainly an 
entreaty to my mother to see, and help me to see, that not her own 
will and action but Fate stood and must always stand, given the 
circumstances between us. And the word I longed for, an assur- 
ance that the old faith and affection were still alive, was not to be 
found in those pages. 

I left England in September, going direct to Engelberg, where the 
Fiedlers were staying. More than a year had passed and Lisl had 
steadily refused to discuss the reasons of our now notorious breach 
with any of our common acquaintances. This being so, Conrad de- 
cided to constitute himself my champion in Leipzig, more especially 
since I now felt free to show him certain letters proving that Lisl 
had been told everything from the first, and that I was guiltless of 
deception, treachery, or anything that could alienate anyone's sym- 
pathies, let alone merit social ostracism; also that if it was a ques- 
tion of apportioning blame for what had happened, others were at 
least as culpable as I. He thereupon wrote once more to Lisl, de- 
manding as an act of bare justice that she should corroborate cer- 
tain statements he proposed to make in certain quarters; and this 
time he gained his point. 

Meanwhile I again shouldered my pack and started forth on a 
solitary tramp across the beautiful Joch Pass to visit the Wachs at 
the Ried. Lili Wach, who feared that a bitter ordeal awaited me at 
Leipzig and was incapable herself of grasping nettles successfully, 
was evidently relieved to learn that Conrad was taking action in my 
behalf, and with the certainty of our passing the winter together I 
left for Crostewitz. 

The return to my old haunts taught me one thing: that human 
nature is kindlier than pessimists would have one believe. The Fied- 


1886-87] In the Desert 

lers told me that many of my old friends, notably Frau Limburger, 
had refused from the first to believe ill of me; that others had dimly 
suspected a situation unsuitable to the convenient black-and-white 
methods of melodrama; and that even those who had cheerfully 
believed the worst were not sorry to know they were wrong. Perhaps 
no one likes being taken in too grossly. 

But one bitter disappointment awaited me; I ought to have fore- 
seen it perhaps, but I didn't. Soon after my return the Fiedlers 
left for Munich via Berlin, and Mary was full of the representations 
she meant to make Lisl, which, she believed, must surely change 
the whole situation. 

Alas! the result merely showed what, when she chose to put them 
forth, LisFs powers of persuasion and fascination could achieve. Up 
to now the two had been on rather distant terms; there was lack of 
affinity to start with; moreover when, as was the case with the Fied- 
lers, a husband interested Lisl more than the wife, she took no pains 
to conceal the fact and Mary was accustomed to adulation. But on 
this occasion, as I read between the lines, she laid herself out to 
capture the whole position . . . and succeeded. In the pages upon 
pages I got from Berlin there is not the faintest allusion to the real 
point at issue, the harshness and brutality with which the breach 
had been affected, the early attempt to make the Fiedlers drop me, 
and all the rest of it, nor is my everlasting question: "Does she speak 
kindly of me?" as much as referred to. On the other hand change 
upon change is rung on Lisl's tragic and beautiful appearance in 
mourning (she had recently lost her father), the nobility of her 
character, the desperate position she was placed in, the inevitable- 
ness of our separation, and the sufferings of other persons involved 
who as it happened were less than nothing to the writer. Not that 
my sorrows were forgotten or that I was reproached or blamed in 
these loving effusions; but the magic of Lisl, acting on an impres- 
sionable being for the first time wooed by her and treated as an equal, 
had caused Mary to forget, or gloss over, everything that was not to 
her interlocutor's advantage! 

Knowing how everyone coveted Conrad's good opinion, far be 
it from me to blame Lisl for the masterliness with which she con- 
ducted what I always called in my mind the "Berlin Congress/' 
including the winning round of my own particular friend, Conrad's 


Impressions that Remained [1886-87 

wife. She was not only a great artist musically speaking; there was a 
quality about her which would have made this frankest, most sin- 
cere of beings a superb actress if the stage had been her vocation. 
When deeply moved she had command of extraordinarily beautiful 
language, to which her letters, in the original at least, bear witness 
letters written at lightning speed with scarce a stumble or an erasure. 
In conversation her voice, not a striking one as a rule, would then 
acquire a thrilling metallic ring, her expression a fineness, her ges- 
tures a rare grace and beauty, for all their violence, that carried every- 
thing before her. No wonder the gratified Mary forgot her brief; 
even Conrad must have been under the spell, for in a beautiful 
letter 1 he wrote me from Munich, full of wise counsel, the main 
issues are not mentioned! Feeling that after all I had been left in 
the lurch in a matter at least as vital to me as my good name, I wrote 
bitterly, and presently the interchange of letters ceased. 

I settled down in new rooms in the Hauptmannstrasse, the quar- 
ter once favoured by the Geistinger. . . . How many of us have 
stood in a street, wondering, as we gaze up stupidly at certain win- 
dows, what our connection is with someone young, keen, and happy 
who used to stand there doing the same thing! . . . The Geistinger 
had left Leipzig long since, and the first time I passed her house that 
autumn three children were laughing and quarrelling in her balcony 
. . . but there was another street on the other side of the town 
through which I never passed again. . . . Most of my Saturday and 
Sunday afternoons were spent at Dolitz, the Limburgers' country 
house, riding, and playing tennis or bowls according to the weather, 
Ella, my particular friend, wife of the eldest son, Julius, being in 
Egypt. I remember that one day I and Clotilde (who had acquired 
a taste for dangerous games during her stay in England) shot down- 
stairs on a shutter and were rather pleased to find none of her 
brothers evinced any desire to do likewise. We hoped herewith to 
have begun the undermining of a prevalent German notion that 
women are but poor, timid creatures. 

In January I flew home to assist at the marriage of my youngest 
and only unmarried sister to Hugh Eastwood of the K.D.G/s, on 
which occasion for the last time in my life I acted as bridesmaid. A 
1 Appendix, p. 405. 


1886-87] In the Desert 

week later the couple started for India; Bob, who had been ill, was 
sent to Egypt in quest of a few months* sunshine; and I returned 
to Leipzig - in premature possession of some beautiful sapphires my 
mother had always meant to leave me in her Will. 

From February onwards I was no longer alone in my lodgings. 
Ella Limburger, who had been suffering severely under the dogless- 
ness of the East, met in the streets of Vienna, fell in love with, pur- 
chased, and brought home a huge sprawling yellow-and-white puppy 
of the long-haired kind generally seei\ dragging washerwomen's carts. 
Half St. Bernard and the rest what you please, Marco was an en- 
trancing animal, but as there were already three sporting dogs of 
Julius's about the house, Ella yielded to my passionate entreaties and 
gave him to me. 

For twelve years that dog was the joy of my life, and latterly the 
terror of my friends. I have had the privilege of rushing to the as- 
sistance of Royalty our most kind and faithful friend the Duke 
of Connaught who on endeavouring to leave a note at my cot- 
tage had been driven hastily back into the high road by Marco, 
slamming the wicket just in time. And another old friend, Sir 
William Butler, declared that nothing would induce him to ap- 
proach my door unless clad in riding boots. In fact like many other 
geniuses Marco became nerve-rasped and ferocious in his old age, 
but in his youth, though always a desperate character, he was wholly 
amiable, and took to life on the third floor, his head reposing on the 
pedals of a seldom silent piano, as if washerwomen had never been 
heard of, 

A greater philosopher, a more perfect comrade for a busy woman, 
can never have existed; if, in the stress of work, I put off his dinner 
too long, all he did was to shut his eyes and moan very, very softly, 
like a baby. I gave him a toy, a thing called "Marco's purse" really 
a little netted blue bag with long strings, which eventually became 
a repulsive object but nevertheless travelled with us everywhere, 
wrapped in fold upon fold of the Weekly Times. Sometimes when 
bored, after many yawns and sighs he would get up and lay his head 
on my lap; but at the words "Don't bother, Marco," he would stand 
still, reflecting, then suddenly pounce on his purse, roll over on to 
his back, hold it up between his paws, and making it sway back- 


impressions that Remained [1886-87 

wards and forwards, alternately catch it in his mouth and let it go 
again. Having worked off his energy this way, he would get up, lie 
down very carefully on the exact centre of the purse, and go heavily 
to sleep an object-lesson to many human beings. 

That February the weather was arctic, a fact linked in my mind 
with the capricious digestion of young dogs and the frequent neces- 
sity of rising from my bed and hastily putting on ulster and slippers 
in order to conduct poor Marco down to the street. I almost became 
a Socialist owing to the chivalrous conduct of the second-floor lodger, 
no less a person than the great Bebel himself, who, finding me shiv- 
ering in the porte-cochere one night, insisted on my going upstairs 
instantly, and in due course conducted the invalid back to his own 
quarters. Wherever I went Marco went, and wherever Marco went 
he made history. I had noticed that sometimes, even without his 
purse, he would roll over gently on to his back, yawn, and rub his 
nose with a large yellow paw; this odd trait was developed into a 
trick called "eat your paw," about which there was something so 
subtly appealing that even old Frau Limburger, who disliked and 
dreaded dogs, was melted at the sight. 

I never knew a more hilarious temperament than Marco's so 
much so that, invited to attend a rehearsal Brahms was holding of 
his Piano Quintet at the flat of Brodsky, the violinst, it seemed ad- 
visable for once to leave him in the street. I was seated at the piano 
turning over, when suddenly the door burst open and with a bound 
Marco was beside me, while the cellist's desk, taken in his stride, 
went crash. Having spoken disparagingly of the great man's sense 
of humour, it is only fair to say he rose to this occasion and declared 
the whole thing took him back to the Harlequinades of his youth. 
. . . During the two bereft winters I spent in Leipzig, anything 
more markedly kind, fatherly, and delicate than Brahms's manner to 
me cannot be imagined; but I had always known that with all his 
faults he had a heart of gold. 

What chiefly remains in my memory concerning that first criti- 
cal winter is the wonderful kindness shown me. My great trouble 
was mentioned to no one except Lili Wach, and I am thankful to 
think that in after years I was able in some measure to make up for 
what must have been a painful spell of her life. If three people have 


1886-87] In the Desert 

been in closest alliance, and two of these are violently separated, 
each still clinging to the third, the situation of that third is not an 
enviable one more especially in the case of a temperament so 
unwarlike, so delicate and shrinking, that among the many nick- 
names bestowed by me upon her, the favourite and most appropriate 
was "the Sensitive Plant." Yet behind all, carefully dissimulated 
in ordinary life, was what the other lacked, passion; that is why 
her friendship was so satisfying in deep waters. Nevertheless end- 
less discussions that led to nothing wore us out, and eventually, 
though she never gave up hope of better times coming, we avoided 
by mutual consent the subject that was in the forefront of both 
our minds. 

Looking back through those months, many and many a sudden 
grip of a friendly hand do I recall trifles light as air but which 
made all the difference. For instance I remember how Julius Lim- 
burger, the prodigal son of the family a young man much criti- 
cized in Leipzig but whom I always loved for his kind heart took 
me by the arm one day and said in his rough fashion: "Now look 
here, you are still young, hang it all, and I won't have you moping 
like this; you're to come to the next Gewandhaus ball, mind that!" 
And I did go to the ball, for the first time since many years, and 
Julius made it his business to smother me in partners from start to 

But I think with most delight of a sudden touch of humour in 
dear simple Frau Rontgen. Her great worth of character had always 
impressed and attracted me, but that winter deepened and intensi- 
fied my feeling, such a friend did she prove herself, so sure and deli- 
cate was her instinct how and when to help. Some acquaintance 
of hers was in trouble and she spoke of it, adding: "but you never 
liked her, I know." I said: "I don't dislike anyone who is unhappy," 
whereupon Frau Rontgen remarked cheerfully: "My dear Ethel, 
don't tell me you have developed into a Thranen Lise" (tearful 
Lise) "thaf s not at all your line, believe me!" the allusion be- 
ing to an exceedingly dull old spinster whose speciality was to weep 
with the afflicted no matter on how slight an acquaintance. This 
little joke was like a breath of fresh air in the Catacombs. On another 
occasion, when I sang her a particularly cheerful little song I had 
just composed, she clapped me on the shoulder and said: "So eine 


Impressions that Remained [1886-87 

Musik lass 9 ich mir von Ihnen gef alien!" (That's the sort of music 
I like to hear from you) . 

There was one case of wobbling which I record, firstly because it 
ended well, and secondly because it was characteristic and funny, 
though I did not feel amused at the time. During rny year in Eng- 
land Frau Livia had made no sign which was not surprising, for 
we did not correspond regularly and she was not one to rush on the 
horns of a dilemma; but when she learned I was returning to Leip- 
zig she wrote, not exactly unkindly, but urging me to stay away, on 
the ground that girls of whom certain things had been said 
whether deservedly or not did well to remain "unterm Schutz des 
elterlichen Daches" (under the protection of the home roof) . And 
the finishing touch, I thought, was a suggestion that I should com- 
pose the Psalm about the waters going over one's head, on which 
theme she felt certain I should "produce a masterpiece"!! 

Like Bonnemaman I kept a draft of my furious reply, the gist of 
which was that I had done nothing disgraceful and should most cer- 
tainly come back. As for "the conflict of duties" for herself which 
she mentioned, she could be quite easy in her mind, since wild horses 
would not drag me across her doorstep. The tone of the letter was 
true to the deep affection and respect I bore her, but dynamite 
was not lacking and it must have pulverized her for the moment. 
Nevertheless in my heart I felt sorry for this German equivalent of 
an Early Victorian lady, temperamentally as incapable of under- 
standing complicated situations as a child of ten; and when I really 
turned up, Conrad's activities having preceded me, I got a dear note 
begging me to go and see her. Of course I went at once, was met 
by two outstretched arms, and not only was all well, but I think the 
incident brought home to us how deeply we were attached to each 
other in a region that no passing differences can affect the region 
of elective affinity. 

When I returned to England that summer Marco had a colossal 
success except perhaps with my little nieces and nephews, who 
having learned what his duties would have been had he remained 
in his own station of life, naturally expected him to drag their go- 
carts. But this, unfortunately, was the one and only request he re- 
fused to comply with, having I suppose seen enough of that sort of 


Marco and the Author, 1891 

1886-87] In the Desert 

thing in days gone by. Strangers used to ask curiously what breed 
he was, and when I casually answered: "Oh, he's a Wiener-Hund" 
they looked knowing and were quite satisfied. Mother adored him, 
even when he lay under a certain wicker table at tea-time and, 
getting up, walked about as under a canopy, bearing plates and tea- 
cups. As at Leipzig, he went everywhere with me, and one night at 
the Edward Olives', when there was a fight under the dinner table 
between Marco and the Clive dog, I remember the presence of 
mind displayed by beautiful Violet Howard, Lilla dive's sister, who, 
seizing her full glass of champagne, leaped up on her chair and stood 
there a bewitching vision in green and gold. 

One feat of Marco's, and it shall be the last, I cannot refrain from 
recording. In the schoolroom there was one of those old-fashioned 
bookcases in two sections, consisting of a cupboard below, about 
three and a half feet high, and four shelves on the top between the 
two parts a six-inch ledge. You placed a glove on the top shelf and 
Marco would leap on to the ledge, change feet in a flash, rear up, 
snap the glove, and descend with his back to the bookcase. I never 
saw a heavy domestic dog capable of such a performance, though 
Charlie Hunter once had a dapple-grey cob that could have done it 
on the side of a house built to scale. 

During these years I have been reviewing, Bob had been through 
Wellington and afterwards with an Army coach; but being like my- 
self bad at examinations, he failed to pass, and was now doing militia 
training at Guildford with a view to getting into the Army by the 
back door. None of a family devoted to scenery cares about it more 
than he, so we determined to explore the Wye country in the price- 
less company of Marco. 

The peculiarity of walking-tours is, that for the reason quoted 
from Barres, one is as entrancing as another, provided you plan them 
properly. True, there was no sea this time, no Piper's Hole, but it 
was England's beauty in a fresh aspect and that was enough. All 
the same, what I chiefly remember (besides the fact that in these 
mountainous districts the butcher's cart only goes round once a 
week and that we never managed to hit off the day) is a curious 
occasion when solitude gave the stimulating screw-up supplied usu- 
ally by the presence of a gallery. We had climbed up inside an old 


Impressions that Remained [1886-87 

ruinous tower on a hill, all broken blocks of stone and ivy, when Bob, 
who hadn't a particularly good head, declined to go any higher; I 
went onwards and upwards and found, as often happens, that getting 
down again was quite another thing. It really was a nasty place, and 
after I had sat for twenty minutes or so trying to pump up courage, 
Bob started for some cottages about a mile off to fetch a ladder. 
But before he was out of sight, left alone with an intolerable sense 
of humiliation, the descent suddenly seemed possible, and was ac- 
complished without catastrophe. 

At one period of our tour we were due to spend a couple of days 
with Sybella Lady Lyttelton, sister of General Edward Clive, who, 
with Lilla, was of the party, and arrived in time for tea after a six 
hours' tramp in a real Herefordshire downpour. We had nothing 
with us but what we stood up in, and our physical formation fairly 
normal I should have thought was apparently such that no one's 
clothes fitted us; or perhaps we preferred wandering about swathed 
in blankets while our own were in the oven. This was the first time 
Marco had stayed in a strange house, and in honour of the occasion 
he did a thing he had never done before lay down on the sofa of 
the room he was shut in, and alas! snapped a beautiful fan of Lilians 
in half (a crime she remembered against him ever after) . 

Among the visitors was the great Mr. Lowell, and I found him 
superior and inclined to pontificate. There is something even in the 
writings of Victorian men of that moral-lecturing type, Martin Tup- 
per, O. W. Holmes of the breakfast-cups, and others, that suggests 
the holder-f orth unaccustomed to being "taken up" as the nurses 
of my day put it and I remember kind Lady Lyttelton looking 
rather perturbed when the pronouncements of her great Friend and 
Authority were challenged by Youth and Ignorance. 

If my recollections of this tour are rather meagre, it is perhaps be- 
cause I was waiting for a letter a frame of mind which does not 
preclude receiving, but is against retaining impressions. In the course 
of the summer I had learned that Herzogenberg was suffering from 
a strange malady supposed to be rheumatic but which the doctors 
half feared might be tubercular. An operation at Munich dissipated 
this dread, and presently I learned that ere long he would be as well 
as ever, but for a stiff knee, and able to resume his duties at Berlin. 

39 2 

1886-87] In the Desert 

It seemed impossible not to express to Lisl my past distress and 
present relief; and thinking that deliverance from the shadow of the 
first real sorrow she had ever been threatened with might have soft- 
ened her mood, I asked if we could not meet by and by, just once, 
after which I would contentedly go back into the desert. . . . 

On our return to Frimhurst I found her reply awaiting me a 
strange stiff epistle in which my name is not once mentioned, written 
too in English, a language she never used when discussing serious 
subjects. She was still very anxious about her husband, she said, and 
begged me not to complicate her life by appeals and suggestions that 
could only enervate and distress. . . . She was not, and never had 
been unfaithful to our past; Fate, not her will, separated us, and it 
was unfair to make her "responsible for the sorrow resultant there- 
from." In conclusion I was asked not to try to make her say more 
than that, for she was "resolved not to." . . . 

Perhaps I judged this letter too harshly at the time, for through 
the frozen trickle of words which was all that fear or loyalty to others 
permitted, I now see a certain attempt to convey that she too was 
unhappy. But the unmistakable accent that turns stripes into caresses 
was lacking, and why had she written in English? Suddenly it 
flashed across me that it was in order to avoid the intimate German 
dul . . . I may have wronged her, but I still see no other ex- 

This was the last communication I ever had from her, and with 
it began the bitterest epoch in my experience; for though, as will be 
shown, I had reacquired a certain grip on life and work, it seemed 
to me I might some day find myself hating Lisl. 

There are people who appear to find a relief and a solution in 
hatred; perhaps because it has a false air of showing character and 
facing facts. I think I always felt dimly that this apparently strong, 
healthy growth is in reality the child of stupidity and sterility; yet 
it took me years to understand that if the implacable not only repel 
but inspire pity and a touch of contempt it is because they are 
dead and do not know it ... the charnel-house masquerading in 
the Pageant of Life. And if the generous attract and uplift even 
when difficult to live with, like my mother it is because these are 
really alive, and the only fit company for the living. I hadn't yet got 
as far as hatred; it was rather that the Centre of Indifference seemed 


Impressions that Remained [1887-88 

to have been reached. The old tenderness would still "tread softly 
round and gaze at me from far/ 7 but it was becoming easier to drive 
that gentle ghost away. Thus month by month the sadness within 
deepened, and this was the mood in which what turned out to be 
mv last winter in dear Leipzig was lived. 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. Autumn 1887 to Spring 1888 

JC\.LMOST immediately after our return from the Wye, Bob and 
I again started forth in each other's company, this time for Germany, 
where it was his laudable intention to learn German, one of the 
most difficult of languages, in three months I But anyhow the ad- 
mission that knowledge of foreign tongues might come in useful 
in a soldier's career was something to be thankful for; a few years 
back, good linguists like my friend Captain Hubert Foster had been 
looked upon almost as decadents, certainly as doubtful chips of the 
old John Bull block. At my advice Bob put himself under the wing 
of Johanna Rontgen, who had a perfect passion for teaching any- 
body anything (as also for learning herself), and of course they be- 
gan their studies with Egmont, the one play of "our Goethe" cal- 
culated to appeal to a budding soldier. 

In Johanna's spare hours she taught drawing and I think the Bible 
at an infant school for threepence an hour or some such sum, and 
towards Christmas I remember she showed me with great pride some 
little cardboard models of Leipzig and district made by her pupils 
an excellent way of teaching them to observe. It seemed, though, 
that each model had an inordinate number of poles with Ver~ 
boten placards, and I pointed this out to Johanna, adding in my 
folly that it was rather a shame to drag the "Verboten bogie into 
these wretched infants' games, thereby checking healthy instincts of 
rebellion without which every child is a bore. But Johanna replied 
triumphantly that I evidently knew very little about children 
German children anyway for as it happened those Verboten 


1 887-88] In the Desert 

poles were to them the supreme ecstasy of the thing. 'The only 
difficulty/' she added, "is to stop them putting one at each end of 
the Grimmasche Strasse" this being a great highway that cuts the 
town east and west, in fact the Oxford Street of Leipzig! 

I have often said to myself that nothing illustrates the difference 
between the Germans and ourselves more perfectly than this little 
incident, except perhaps another that does not belong in the eighties, 
but which I must stretch a point to record here as natural sequence 
to the Johanna method. 

Kreisler, who of course is an Austrian, w r as once travelling with his 
wife from Rome to Naples when, as so often happens in the Cam- 
pagna, the train pulled up three or four miles out of Rome for the 
reason that a herd of bullocks were reposing on the line. At this 
moment Kreisler noticed that his famous Stradivarius had been left 
behind at the hotel; uttering imprecations he hurled himself out 
on to the line, made his wife pitch out their hand baggage, includ- 
ing violin No. II, and then received her flying form in his arms, 
the floor of the carriage being about four and a half feet above the 
ground. All this time their two fellow travellers, Germans, had been 
ceaselessly expressing their scandalization, reminding the young Aus- 
trian that to get out between the stations was "strengstens verboten" 
Kreisler in his agitation not even bothering to reply. Suddenly, as the 
engine gave a piercing and prolonged whistle less alarming in Italy 
than elsewhere, for there are many stages yet to come Frau Kreis- 
ler's bag was seen to be missing. ""Hand me down that bag on the 
middle seat please quick/' said Kreisler. "I shall do nothing of the 
sort," replied one of the Germans, and slammed the door. Where- 
upon Kreisler, swarming up the side of the carriage, wrenched the 
door open, pushed past the German, and while the train was slowly 
getting into its stride jumped after the bag to the ground. He told 
me he should never, never forgive himself for not having punched 
the head of the man who slammed the door, and being of a pas- 
sionate temperament, got quite white when he spoke of the inci- 
dent, which had happened at least three years previously. 

Early in the music season I at last met the great violinist Sarasate 
in private life, and was amazed to find this sad, tragic, romantic- 
looking man literally bubbling over with fun. That evening he had 


Impressions that Remained [ 1 887-88 

stepped for a moment into a Carmen performance and went into 
peals of laughter at the idea of any public accepting our admirable 
but hideous prima donna Moran-Olden as Carmen; although he 
greatly disliked Germans, it was well worth coming to Germany, he 
said, to see such a traite de mceurs. Talking to him I realized for 
the first time that though Spaniards thoroughly endorse Merimee's 
story, on which the libretto is based, the treatment of it in the opera 
infuriates them, as does also the mitigated French handling of their 
desperate national rhythms. I knew too little of Spanish music to 
contest the point and as I love Carmen hope this is a purity of feel- 
ing to which only Spaniards need aspire; but all musically cultivated 
countrymen of his I have met since are of the same opinion as 

As regards another audacious foreigner's work, Gounod's Faust, 
revived that winter in Leipzig, my life in Germany had been one 
long battle from the first, the banalization of their great play being 
a crime the Germans are unable to forgive, though there as else- 
where the only people who matter, the gallery, love the music in 
spite of themselves. Connoisseurs like the Herzogenbergs and the 
Rontgens, while grudgingly allowing the "relative" beauty of some 
of the music, asked how any cultivated person who knew Goethe 
could sit out the opera? I wonder what they would have said to an 
English version of the play produced by Irving in the eighties, in 
the course of which Faust informs Mephistopheles that he intends 
to make an honest woman of Margaret, but is persuaded by the other 
to drop the idea! Whether this amazing interpolation was a con- 
cession to English prudery or a gratuitous piece of hypocrisy I never 
made out. As managers are wild to get the sympathies of the audi- 
ence with the hero and herione at any cost, it may have been put 
in to prove that Faust had a better nature unfortunately counter- 
acted by Mephistopheles. Anyhow it was one of those occasions on 
which one murmurs: "Alas my country!" 

I think it was in November that Fanny Davies and Brodsky played 
a Violin Sonata of mine in the "Kammermusik/' and Bob remem- 
bers the critics unanimously said it was devoid of feminine charm 
and therefore unworthy a woman the good old remark I was so 
often to hear again. Lucy Tait, Edith Davidson's sister, who was 
passing through Leipzig at that moment, and whom her brother-in- 


1887-88] In the Desert 

law the Dean had described as one of those people who never miss 
a train but always come by the next, arrived in the middle of the 
first movement (very good time-keeping for her) and was ushered 
through a back entrance on to the platform itself in full view of 
the whole audience a severe punishment for one of a particularly 
retiring disposition. Our Christmas was spent at the Limburgers' 
sequel to many delightful Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Dolitz 
in the late autumn. The way the brother was admitted as a matter 
of course into the bosom of this and other families at that intimate 
season shows how wide and delicate was the German reading of 
friendship for the sister. He himself became quite sentimental over 
it, and no wonder. 

All this time I was wishing to goodness he would apply himself 
more assiduously to the task of learning German, and above all re- 
gretted his absurd passion for music, which resulted in his going 
night after night to concerts and the opera instead of following my 
old plan of attending the drama. . . . Alas, there was no youthful 
Geistinger to keep him up to the mark! When we both went back 
to England in the middle of January, I for a fortnight's hunting, he 
for good and all, I felt that it was in some obscure way my fault that 
he hadn't learned more; but he has since assured me that it was not 
for lack of being worried almost to death on the subject by me. 

The great frost of February and March 1888 I shall always re- 
member because of a rather horrible skating adventure I had. The 
country round about Leipzig, as all students of Napoleon's cam- 
paigns know, is intersected by countless little rivers one dirtier 
and more sluggish than the other which however atone for their 
existence by flowing through beautiful woods. Consequently this 
year, the ice being in places three feet thick, the skater was in Para- 
dise. One moonlight evening a party of some eight or ten of us 
started forth down the river, had supper in a woodland restaurant 
thrown open in this unexpected burst of winter prosperity, and 
timed our return so as to be back in Leipzig about eleven p.m. On 
the way home one of my skates got loose, and a nice shy English 
boy called Mynors, son of a clergyman, having stopped to help me, 
we two and Marco fell behind the rest. Flying along to catch them 
up, the thermometer any number of degrees below zero, suddenly 
I found myself in the river (about four and a half feet deep just 


Impressions that Remained [1887-88 

there), my skates well embedded in the muddy bottom! It was a 
gully of warm water flowing out of a factory hidden away in the 
trees, and skinned over with ice. 

I wish I could relate that Marco flew to my assistance, but as a 
matter of fact he stuck in his toes, slid a yard or two, and hurriedly 
made for the bank, where, in spite of commands and entreaties, he 
sat down actually sat down and watched the proceedings dis- 
passionately. On either side of me the ice was eighteen inches thick, 
but the gully was too wide to lift oneself out, nor could Mr. Mynors 
get purchase enough to take a pull. Eventually we hit upon a bril- 
liant idea, which was that I, exhausted and half frozen to death, 
should make one final leaping heave upwards, turning as I rose, 
while Mr. Mynors, aiming the point of his stick at the buckle of my 
Norfolk jacket, was to give a mighty prod and shove. Painful as it 
sounds, the manoeuvre was a success, and presently I was on my 
back on firm ice, but before the bank was reached my petticoats were 
stiff and clanking. 

It was no time to sit down and fiddle with skates, one of mine 
being half off already, so we linked arms and jog-trotted the four 
miles to Leipzig. But as ill luck would have it niy landlady was at- 
tending a wedding supper and alas! there was nothing in my room 
by way of stimulant except half a bottle of lager beer! . . . I begged 
Mr. Mynors to fly at top speed to a restaurant for some brandy, got 
into bed, and lay there, dreading a return of one of my violent ill- 
nesses, for I was shivering to such an extent that the bed shook under 
me. At last, after what seemed to me an eternity, came a knock; 
then a hand appeared, stiffly holding out a bottle! . . . Quite ex- 
asperated by this untimely display of English prudishness, I thun- 
dered to the poor boy, who probably had never seen a woman in 
bed in his life, to come in at once which he did with a reluctance 
that even then amused me. And the point of the story, showing 
what the human body can assimilate under certain conditions, is 
that I drank about a pint of most villainous raw spirit at a draught, 
fell instantly into a drunken sleep, and woke up next day without 
even a headache. 

In the March of that year I sent Joachim the Violin Sonata, 
hoping that though it had been mercilessly slated by the press, he 


1887-88] In the Desert 

might perhaps be of a different opinion and see his way to perform- 
ing it in London. I recommend his answer x to the attention of any 
young musician assured by a great authority that he has no talent, 
for this, according to Joachim, was my case; he added a hope that 
I would not resent his expressing this conviction (which by the by 
he solemnly retracted twelve years later when I didn't care two 
straws what he thought), and comforted himself by reflecting that 
if my musical bent was genuine it would survive his lack of appre- 
ciation. I felt this was true, and the day came when I was glad never 
to have been among his favourites; as a rule pedantry and total 
absence of the sacred spark were their chief characteristics, and with 
very, very few exceptions they all fizzled out in after life. Still the 
letter was not an agreeable one to receive, particularly at that mo- 
ment, and one little dig at him I allowed myself. I said that of course 
an honest opinion could never be resented, but at the same time I 
much wondered if he considered Mr. So-and-So a genuine talent 
this being a youth never heard of before or since, whose deadly dull 
Opus i he had recently produced in London, and whose mama was 
a giver of smart musical parties, at which the Joachim Quartet per- 
formed about once a fortnight, for fabulous fees, throughout the 
season. This letter received no reply. 

All this time I had been seeing a great deal of the von Webers, 
people I had met off and on in Leipzig society for many years, but 
who, though cultivated and musical, were not in the sacred Herzo- 
genberg set. Weber, a Captain in the Leipzig regiment, was either 
grandson or nephew of the composer, and his wife a Jewess, niece 
of old Madame Schwabe's; but what gave special point to inter- 
course with this couple was the constant presence in their house of 
Weber's great friend, Count Paul Vizthum, a Saxon officer on the 
Headquarters Staff. But for the fact that I knew he was deeply in 
love with a young married woman, a friend of mine, I think I should 
have completely succumbed to the charm of Vizthum, a sort of 
Bayard nearer forty than thirty, not exactly handsome but of a mag- 
nificent presence and a grand seigneur. These three got into the 
habit of coming to supper with me a supper of cold ham and 
beer, though sometimes one of the party would bring a pdte de foie 
1 Appendix, p. 407. 


Impressions that Remained [1887-88 

gras or a particularly admirable sausage, and on one occasion (some- 
body's birthday) there was champagne. Now I come to think of it 
the spectacle must have been unusual these immense Saxon 
officers tramping up three pairs of stairs to my door, depositing their 
helmets and swords and all the rest of it on my piano, and settling 
down to a frugal meal with a musical student, just for the sake of a 
little pleasant talk. 

I never met any of the trio again, though sometimes I seem to 
remember a passing glimpse of Vizthum at Dresden, but the poor 
Webers' subsequent history was tragic. Gustav Mahler, who was 
then one of the conductors at the Leipzig Opera, fell in love with 
her and his passion was reciprocated as well it might be, for in 
spite of his ugliness he had demoniacal charm. A scandal would 
mean leaving the Army, and Weber shut his eyes as long as was 
possible, but Mahler, a tyrannical lover, never hesitated to com- 
promise his mistresses. Things were getting critical when one day, 
travelling to Dresden in the company of strangers, Weber suddenly 
burst out laughing, drew a revolver, and began taking William Tell- 
like shots at the head-rests between the seats. He was overpowered, 
the train brought to a standstill, and they took him to the police 
station raving mad thence to an asylum. He had always been con- 
sidered rather queer in the Army, and the Mahler business had 
broken down his brain. I afterwards heard he had lucid intervals, 
that his wife in an agony of remorse refused to see her lover again 
. . . and the rest is silence. 

Mahler's life was full of incidents of this sort, and knowing him 
even as slightly as I did I can well believe it, not being able to con- 
ceive that any woman who loved and was loved by him could resist 
him. I felt this even when I saw him last (it was at Vienna in 1907) , 
worn out, exasperated, prematurely aged, wrestling with the Haps- 
burgs as personified by the Intendant of the Opera House he had 
made the first in the world. He was far and away the finest con- 
ductor I ever knew, with the most all-embracing musical instinct, 
and it is one of the small tragedies of my life that just when he was 
considering the question of producing The Wreckers at Vienna 
they drove him from office. When he was gone even his enemies 
regretted their action; but the ideal of art he set, his passionate re- 


1887-88] In the Desert 

fusal to abate one jot or tittle of his artistic demands, the magnitude 
and purity of his vision, these are things that start a tradition and 
linger after sunset. ... At the time I am speaking of in Leipzig 
I saw but little of him, and we didn't get on; I was too young and 
raw then to appreciate this grim personality, intercourse with whom 
was like handling a bomb cased in razor-edges. But later on, when 
years had endowed me with seeing eyes, I thought with deep sym- 
pathy of poor Frau von Weber whom he probably considered a 
mere passing fancy! 

Throughout the greater part of the winter of 1887-8 the Griegs 
were in Leipzig and it is then that my real friendship with them 
began. When Grieg appeared on a platform, whether alone or ac- 
companying his wife's superb rendering of his songs, the audience 
went mad, but there was a simplicity and purity of spirit about them 
that success could not tarnish. Out of action, these two tiny people 
looked like wooden figures from a Noah's Ark, the transfiguration 
which ensued when they got to work being all the more astonish- 
ing Frau Grieg sang in Norwegian of course and one often had 
only a vague idea as to the meaning of the words, but her perform- 
ance was, as Vernon Lee once said about someone else's singing, 
"explosive literature," and one wept, laughed, and thrilled with 
excitement or horror without knowing why. The song over, she again 
became Noah's wife. Grieg is one of the very few composers I have 
met from whose lips you might hear as frank a confession as he 
once made concerning one of his later- works. I had been so enthusi- 
astic, and he was always so keen to get at honest impressions, that 
I ventured to say the coda of one of the movements seemed not quite 
up tothe level of the rest. "Ah, yes!" he said, shrugging his shoulders, 
"at that point inspiration gave out and I had to finish without!" 
I remember too on a certain occasion his being invited for a huge 
sum to conduct not only his own work but the whole programme, 
and refusing on the ground that he was too bad a conductor. "But 
the public won't mind that," pleaded the manager, "they'll come 
to see you conduct: besides which, as you conduct your own music 
you surely can get along with other people's well enough for all 
purposes?" At this remark Grieg shook his pale yellow mane angrily. 


Impressions that Remained [1887-88 

"My own music?" he snapped; "any fool can conduct his own music, 
but that's no reason for murdering other people's" and the man- 
ager had to drop the subject. 

But of all the composers I have known, the most delightful as 
personality was Tchaikovsky, between whom and myself a rela- 
tion now sprang up that surely would have ripened into close friend- 
ship had circumstances favoured us; so large-minded was he that I 
think he would have put up unresentingly with all I had to give his 
work a very relative admiration. Accustomed to the uncouth, al- 
most brutal manners affected by many German musicians as part 
of the make-up and one of the symptoms of genius, it was a relief 
to find in this Russian, who even the rough diamonds allowed was 
a master on his own lines, a polished cultivated gentleman and 
man of the world. Even his detestation of Brahms's music failed 
to check my sympathy and that I think is strong testimony to his 
charm! He would argue with me about Brahms by the hour, strum 
passages on the piano and ask if they were not hideous, declaring 
I must be under hypnotic influence, since to admire this awkward 
pedant did not square with what he was kind enough to call the 
soundness of my instinct on other points. Another thing that puz- 
zled him was my devotion to Marco, of whom he was secretly ter- 
rified, but this trait he considered to be a form of English spleen 
and it puzzled him less than the other madness. For thirty years 
I have meant to enquire whether dogs play no part in the Russian 
scheme of life or whether Tchaikovsky's views were peculiar to 
himself; anyhow it amused me, reading his memoirs, to find Marco 
and Brahms bracketed together as eccentricities of his young Eng- 
lish friend. 

On one point we were quite of one mind: the neglect m my 
school, to which I have already alluded, of colour; "not one of them 
can instrumentate" he said, and he earnestly begged me to turn 
my attention at once to the orchestra and not be prudish about 
using the medium for all it is worth. "What happens," he asked, 
"in ordinary conversation? If you have to do with really live people, 
listen to the inflections in the voices there's instrumentation for 
you!" And I followed his advice on the spot, went to concerts with 
the sole object of studying orchestral effects, filled notebook upon 
notebook with impressions, and ever since have been at least as 


1887-88] In the Desert 

much interested in sounds as in sense, considering the two things 

I must not forget to record one more strange manifestation of the 
German spirit witnessed during that spring of 1888 an incident 
of the same order as the scenes with the peppery stationer and the 
egregious Commandant of the Leipzig garrison, but more astound- 
ing even than these, in that the hero was one of my most intimate 

It will be remembered that most of the great German doctors had 
pronounced the Crown Prince's malady to be cancer, and that Sir 
Morell Mackenzie, called in by the Crown Princess, was of a dif- 
ferent opinion. No one who was not in Germany at that moment 
can realize the lengths to which an inspired press will go, the least 
of the charges brought against this noble woman being that the 
whole thing was a plot between her and Morell Mackenzie to secure 
her the pension of a German Empress, inasmuch as an heir stricken 
with a mortal disease might possibly be excluded from succession! 

One day, at the height of this disgraceful business, I was lunching 
at the Wachs', Lili as it turned out being ill in bed, and naturally I 
imagined that Wach would share my horror and distress. Not at 
all! The discussion began fairly temperately, by his asking me how 
English doctors would have liked it had the Prince Consort been 
similarly afflicted and a German doctor called in to reverse their 
decision. I replied that though they would in all probability have 
hated it, such a scandal as this malignant press campaign was ab- 
solutely unthinkable in England. But my remarks were brushed 
aside angrily, Wach's voice rose and rose, so did mine, and finally 
when I said: "but after all she is an English Princess/ 7 he bounded 
up, rushed round to my side of the table, and vociferated his 
clenched fist within three inches of my nose: "How dare you say 
she is an English Princess? she married our Crown Prince and is a 
German a GERMAN a GERMAN!! do you understand?" 

At this point all the children fled from the table, pelted down the 
corridor, and as I learned afterwards burst into their mother's room, 
half in terror, half in wild delight, screaming: "Mama! Mama! der 
Papa schldgt die Etheir (Papa is hitting Ethel). . . . Meanwhile 
I too had mmped up, and declaring I would not stand being spoken 

Impressions that Remained [1887-88 

to like that by anybody, rushed into the corridor, seized hat and 
coat, banged the door behind me, and straggling into my garments, 
rushed down the three flights of stairs into the street. But hardly 
was I fifty yards from the house when I heard my name being called, 
and there was the Professor, table napkin in hand, tearing after me, 
his longish stiff dark hair standing erect in the wind. Being devoted 
to him, of course I accepted his apologies without difficulty, and 
was led back in triumph to the deserted luncheon table; the chil- 
dren, a little disappointed that, after all, murder had not been done, 
were collected again and the meal went on in peace. But my amaze- 
ment at this extraordinary display survives undiminished to the pres- 
ent hour. 


In the Desert 



From Dr. Conrad Fiedler 

Munich: January 3, 1887. 

Dear Miss Ethel, Why I am writing to you instead of Mary is 
partly because she is not well and I greatly doubt if you will get the 
long-expected letter before you start for England. She began it, 
and fragments of it are lying in her blotter, but she hesitated to 
finish and despatch it. It is impossible to portray certain compli- 
cated inward conditions with clearness and certainty, and every 
such attempt is fraught with the danger of doing violence to in- 
tricate conflicts of sensations such as these. In fact it is a hopeless 
task, and the more conscientious you are, the more you shrink from 
trying to formulate what can only be felt and guessed. I only saw 
parts of the letter Mary wrote you from Berlin, but doubt if she 
could add anything to it in compliance with your demand for ab- 
solute clearness in this matter. 

She saw Frau von Herzogenberg oftener than I did, but in our 
first interview I at once gained a different picture of her attitude 
and state of mind to that based on impressions gathered from you, 
and I cannot deny that I was glad it was so; had it been otherwise 
it would have distressed me greatly. But do not think that for that 
reason I have lost imagination for your position, or weakened in 
the sense of justice that has prompted me from the first to defend 
your attitude and actions against misconstruction, and resent the 
imputation to you of unworthy motives, or points of view which are 
not yours. Only I think that in certain points you yourself are un- 
just; firstly in that you charge Frau von H. with having miserably 
betrayed and sacrificed you and your character to her own people; 
then, again, in that you ask her to reduce the intricate tangle of 
feelings and duties which, without fault of her own, she finds her- 
self involved in, to a question of one or two fixed possibilities; and 
lastly in that you press for a decision which, matters being as they 
are, cannot be arrived at. 

Impressions that Remained 

You say the present state of things cannot continue; but as I see 
the matter you cannot look to any change from without only to 
finding strength in yourself to begin life over again in a certain 
sense. I realize profoundly the anguish of the inward experience to 
which you have been, and still are, subjected; it is one of those sit- 
uations in which existence itself is at stake an ordeal in which a 
nature either survives or goes under. But you yourself say you are 
conscious of a reserve of strength. Meanwhile, in order to aid your 
powers to new development you ask to be delivered from a state 
of certainty which, alas! is inherent in the nature of the case! . . . 

Your inward relations with Frau von Herzogenberg have per- 
force lost their simplicity, their limpidity, their innocence; that 
fact cannot be altered. It is neither a question of the old affection 
surviving, or of its ceasing; what has happened is a clouding-over 
(Verdunkelung) of the whole relation which cannot be got rid 
of. I see no way out of it but that you find strength to close with 
the past, and instead of wearing yourself out seeking the solution 
of an insoluble problem, devote your energies to new aims. Not 
that I would have you cut out of your existence such an important 
part of your inner life as your friendship with Frau von H. has been 
through all these years that is impossible; but it seems to me 
you must sink it, like a treasure you possess, in the deepest part of 
your soul, there to be kept safe till the changes of life, or circum- 
stances themselves, bring it once more to the surface. And then 
perhaps you will find that this mutual treasure has been faithfully 
guarded in another breast; but for the moment it is my firm con- 
viction that all attempts to restore a thing that can no longer sub- 
sist as it did formerly can only be disastrous. Meanwhile the calm 
you need in order to find yourself again, to work, and in the fullest 
sense of the word to live, is only to be looked for from yourself, 
not from explanations others can give you. 

With kind greetings and best love from Mary, who will finish, 
and send off her letter to you to England, 

Yours very sincerely, 


In the Desert 

From Joseph Joachim 


Berlin: March 22, 1888. 

Honoured Miss Smyth, I have been here for a couple of days 
conducting a Memorial Festival and return to London today. I had 
been unable to try over your Trio there, but ran through it here 
yesterday, as far as it is possible to play such a difficult piece at first 
sight. I am sorry to say I have gained no other opinion to that I 
gave you in Leipzig, either as regards the Trio, or the Sonata, which 
I played through again with Miss Davies. In spite of talent here and 
there, many a clever turn, and a certain facility, candour compels 
me to say that both works seem to me failures unnatural, far- 
fetched, overwrought ("geschraubt"; literally 4i $crewed-up n ), and 
not good as to sound. You say you wonder whether I am "in the 
same boat with Bernsdorf"; * to that I can only reply that I am not 
acquainted with that gentleman's aesthetic standpoint, but when 
two people act similarly it is not always the same thing though it 
looks like it: "Si duo faciant idem non est idem 71 fits the case per- 
haps, but as I say, I do not know. 

I hope you will not bear me a grudge for my lack of assimilative 
power. If your creative instinct is genuine it will not perish on that 
account! Which reflection consoles. 

Yours sincerely, 

from My Mother 


[After my return to Leipzig in 1886] 

September 1886. My darling, Your delightful long letter written 
the day after the dear first one gladdened my heart more than any 

1 An especially venomous Leipzig critic who had been very scathing about 
my Sonata. 


Impressions that Remained 

words could convey; it so completely fulfilled my hopes of what 
your plucl^ resolution and healthy tone of mind would do. You 
WILL win in the end. ... I called on Mrs. R. yesterday; she made 
many enquiries after you and was almost genial, full naturally of 
her "sweet G.'s" engagement, of the L. diamonds and lace, of the 
adopted mother's diamonds, the lovely estate in prospect, the bijou 
house in St. James's, etc.; it was quite nice really to see them so 
happy. . . . My wedding present to Nelly will be the onyx set 
and my blue enamel and diamond snake bracelet, as I am going to 
divide all my jewels among you soon-, except the pearls, diamonds, 
and rings which I will wear to my "dying day," dividing them by 
Will. You, darling, have the sapphires, the best thing I have next 
the diamonds, Alice the pearls (that are hers already) and Bob 
the diamonds. The lace I also keep to the last. Give my kindest 
compliments to all your friends [here follows list] specially your 
present host and hostess 2 and always think of me as your devoted 


Autumn 1886. My Ettie, I don't half like addressing you to this 
new place. I did so love your old rooms with the garden opposite; 
I could always picture you to myself there and call the dear image 
up whenever I liked and now I can't. Do, darling, send me a sketch 
of the rooms. I am sending you another photo of Bob which I like 
much better than the Slave-driving one with the cigarette. Have 
you a pleasant lodging-house keeper where you are? Write me full 
particulars as soon as you can, as I feel restless till I know all about 
those new quarters. . . . Nelly is going up to Alice, as at the best 
the marriage cannot take place this year, and this constant meeting 
is not fair upon anyone concerned. What with one thing and an- 
other the uncertainty of his plans is becoming rather a worry. 

We went to - Church to-day to hear Mr. Z. preach. I had 
never heard him before and was much impressed. He is very pow- 
erful but of this earth earthy. I mean that where he is most mas- 
terful is in depicting the way we are so easily led into indulging 
ourselves through shortcomings, or rather superabundance, of 

2 The Limburgers 


In the Desert 

fleshly tendencies; and though he is grand in pointing out the re- 
medial and rewarding effect of self-denial for higher aims, his 
strength seems to lie in his wonderful knowledge of the power of 
temptation over poor human nature and all the wily traps we set 
ourselves for satisfying or silencing conscience every now and then. 
I should like you to hear him but I think him too era for general 
use. 3 

Do send me word as soon as you can about your dresses; they are 
quite ready. Would you like anything else put in the box, your 
plush mantle for instance? Addio carina, send me the sketch. . . . 


February 1887. My own darling,, Papa came back yesterday night 
from seeing our young couple off in the Euphrates and brought 
back a glowing account of everything, a magnificent ship, the cabins 
so lofty that he could easily stand upright in them with his tall hat 
on. [Here follow three pages of details.] Poor dear things, I do hope 
they will like India; and now to-morrow Bob starts in the P. & O. 
ship Khedive from Gravesend. Papa takes him down to introduce 

him to the Captain and I have written to and to be kind 

to him at Malta and in Cairo. . . . 

Alice says she never saw a young couple start for India under such 
favourable auspices as Hugh and Nelly. What that dear Alice has 
been, advising and packing for the travellers, whose needs she is so 
well acquainted with, it is impossible to describe so practical and 
clear headed. Poor darling, she was nearly voiceless when she ar- 
rived, and though that improved she was still very we^k and looked 
very wan and tired when she left us, but I had a letter from her to- 
day saying she was none the worse and found both her boys better, 
so I hope her unselfishness will have no unhappy results. If all this 
last trying time had done nothing else it has shown me more and 
more what dear, dear good children mine are what a Darling 
you were and are to me in all this, so kind, so thoughtful for 
everyone! and how joyful I shall be when I see your dear face 
againl . . . 

3 The clergyman in question, a popular London preacher beloved of the 
Smart, shortly after went under in connection with a terrible scandal. 


Impressions that Remained 


February 1887. My own darling, I have been waiting since last 
Wednesday to write to you hoping to hear from Malta of the safe 
arrival of the travellers and the letters only came this morning. . . . 
Bob evidently has, like you and Alice, another sense for travelling. 
. . . Are not these earthquakes terrible in France and Italy? Fancy 
Lady X 4 driving one day at the Feast of Flowers at Nice in a Vic- 
toria all made of (or covered with) forget-me-nots harness, reins, 
vehicle, everything the same she herself reclining all in moss 
green in it; and the next day flying in abject terror from Nice in a 
sable-lined cloak over her nightgown! Your delightful Sunday let- 
ter warmed the cockles of my heart; in the first place it was so dear 
of you to write, tired out as you were, and in the next place it is 
such a real joy to me to see how you enjoy the possession of the 
sapphires, and that you have preserved that rich old French setting. 
I should have liked to see you that night, my Darling, at the ball! 

We are rather amused with the M/s just now; you know he is 
High Sheriff now, and they were both most fearfully offended at 
Mrs. H. having asked Nina to collect subscriptions from the women 
of the village for the Jubilee instead of, as he told Nina, asking the 
High Sheriffs wife. Nina aptly answered she supposed it was be- 
cause they thought Mrs. M. as High Sheriffs wife would be fully 
occupied otherwise; she Nina wished personally that Mrs. M., as 
being so much the more active of the two just now, had been asked! 
(I don't mean she made this last remark to Mr. H. of course.) 

Good-bye, my Darling, this hard frost has made my hand stiff 
again. . . . 


June 1888. My darling, darling child, What a lovely birthday 
present that old silver handle is! I never saw such a beautiful, rich, 
clear design those dear little cheery dancing men it makes 
one's heart light to look at them! I won't have it put on an um- 
brella till you come, as Papa keeps saying they must drill a hole 
through to make it firm and the bare idea makes me shudder! . . . 

4 Our exceedingly stout neighbour of the curious household, whose husband 
had meanwhile died, and who had married the clerical peer at last a widower. 


In the Desert 

I think you are quite right to refuse that musical suggestion. You 
can't afford to write musical jokes till your name is known, besides 
which the ordeal of mind and nerves you have gone through the last 
two years is not calculated to qualify you for light compositions. 
... I shall, we all shall, be so overjoyed to have you redly with us, 
herel Nearer our hearts you cannot be, but there is something in 
feeling tangibly that you are! - . . 


Impressions that Remained [1888-89 

CHAPTER XXXIX. Summer 1888 to Summer 1889 

IHAT year I left Leipzig late in June with every intention of going 
back there for the following winter, but as the summer wore on, it 
became evident that my mother was dreading the emptiness that 
would soon possess the house, for Bob, her Benjamin, to whom she 
was specially devoted, had finished his Militia training and was go- 
ing to yet another crammer in July. Realizing her feelings so 
wrought on mine that I determined to try a winter in England. I 
had lots of work waiting to be shaped and plenty of rooms to 
choose from, so the schoolroom became my studio, . , . There 
was one dear face at Leipzig that in any case I had never hoped to 
see again. Frau Rontgen had long been failing under a mortal 
disease, and in July 1888 she died, leaving a tenderer, more in- 
effaceable memory in my heart than many with whom I stood in 
closer relations. Such is the mystery of personality. . . . 

It was in that summer that I got bitten with the genealogical 
craze and started researches that proved to me how useless it would 
have been, even had the funds been available, to put the Royal 
College of Heralds on to the job. Nothing shall persuade me that 
you can expect from outsiders the perseverance necessary in these 
cases to following up clues, nor conscientiousness enough to refrain 
from pressing them unduly. Again, none but a member of the fam- 
ily is in a position to collect and exploit the valuable indirect hints 
that fall from the lips of the elder generation. I used to astonish 
my father by asking him if he could tell me anything about some 
half-forgotten great-uncle of his I had found an allusion to some- 
where; and as both he and two of my aunts had memories that re- 
sponded to stimulus, and were not addicted to romancing, the re- 
sults were sometimes surprising. Nevertheless it took me two years 
and a visit to Ireland, including hours upon hours spent in the 
Four Courts at Dublin, to establish a certain missing link in the 
seventeenth century, and incidentally I discovered that our line was 
literally held together by Church dignitaries. My relations with 
Lambeth and Windsor were evidently more in order than might 


1888-89] In the Desert 

have been supposed, and I was altogether delighted about our 
Bishops, having a strong natural affection for the Anglican Church 
which neither personal scepticism nor an ancient predilection for a 
celibate priesthood undermined. 

Why it offends one if a Bishop's wife insists on having rice pud- 
ding placed within reach of her husband lest he should wake up 
hungry in the middle of the night, whereas the same action on the 
part of a Cardinal's body-servant would strike one charmingly in a 
biography, I do not know . . . but so it is. It was therefore with 
pleasure that in the course of my researches I lit upon evidence 
proving that an ancestress of ours had been equally doubtful as to 
the advantages of the Anglican system in that respect. 

It appeared that a certain Irish Bishop who had married a Miss 
Smyth was about to embark on a controversy concerning the Celi- 
bacy of the Priesthood with a well-known Roman Cardinal, but 
just as he was collating his notes for the printer his wife seized 
them and threw them into the fire, remarking that a man weighed 
down by the cares of a large family was "no fit antagonist for a 
nimble-minded unencumbered Cardinal/' One wished this very 
sensible woman had framed William Ill's Laws concerning Catho- 
lics instead of her cousin. 

My correspondence with unknown relations in Meath, West- 
meath, and Queen's County would fill a bonnet-box, and there 
was one particular Smyth, head of the X branch, with whom I had 
a particularly friendly interchange of letters, taking pains to make 
it on my side as little dreary as the depressing nature of the subject 
permitted. After this had gone on for quite a year, he having re- 
peatedly said how agreeable it was to find he had such a pleasant 
kinswoman (sixteenth cousins we may have been), I set sail for 
Ireland and was invited by him to come and inspect the family 
portraits. Never shall I forget my surprise and chagrin when to- 
wards midnight, after much delightful Smyth talk, settling down 
comfortably in his chair with pipe and grog handy, he suddenly 
asked: "And now tell me, who the devil are you really?" . . . 

It was not a relation, however, but the then Bishop of Down and 
Connor who called my attention to a gratifying point already re- 
ferred to; in fact he got quite keen about our ecclesiastical record 

Impressions that Remained [1888-89 

and said it was "really amazing to see how generation after gen- 
eration had produced men remarkable for piety and learning." No 
suspicion as to other possible reasons for my ancestors' consistent 
preferment seemed to have crossed his mind or perhaps he was 
too polite to mention them. Anyhow it was nice to feel one had 
piety and scholarship running in one's veins however little there 
was to show for it; better still to learn "the Smyths seem to have 
made it a habit to intermarry with attainted families! . . ." After 
all, then, I had every right to be a rebel! 

At length the great genealogical study was ripe for printing by 
subscription and I confess to being prouder of this opuscule than 
of most things I have attempted, furnished as it is with pedigrees, 
catalogues, original documents, and many interesting forgotten 
facts; moreover of an intrinsic quality to challenge fifty Colleges of 
Heralds and win me any lawsuit founded on its evidence. 

It is a strange thing, this passion for running a heel line after 
some ancient defunct rabbit such as John Smyth, nonentity, de- 
ceased 1702, brother of the most ill-advised Bishop on the whole 
Episcopal list. An American singer once said to me: "You wouldn't 
believe it, Doctor Smeithe, but I was twenty-three years of age be- 
fore I knew where my diaphragm really warze" and I thought the 
remark quite mad, holding that no amount of anatomical knowl- 
edge will turn a bad singer into a good one. But how much madder 
this two years' effort to answer satisfactorily Smyth of X's immortal 
question, "who the devil are you, really?" . . . Nevertheless I 
thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, and in due course neatly bound copies 
of the result were forwarded to subscribers and other interested 
persons, from whom I expected and received much praise. . . . But 
there was one exception: a cousin, member of the ever critical }. 
clan, drew my attention to the fact that I had wrongly stated the 
initials of his grandmother (not a Smyth) as also the date of the 
birth of one of his nephews (also not a Smyth). I replied that I 
knew there were other minor errors of this sort besides those he 
mentioned, and was tabulating them in a page of Errata to be 
placed in all copies; whereupon he answered: "Errata indeed; bet- 
ter call it Ethel's stoopid mistakes!" We were amused at this re- 
mark but exclaimed in chorus: "How like a J.I" 


1888-89] In the Desert 

Having brought the story of my great genealogical studies to a 
conclusion, let me go back to the year in which they were begun. 

In the course of this summer (1888) Lili Wach wrote that at 
last there had been a satis